Once you’ve made the time and effort to set goals, it would be a shame to stop there. You must take that next step.

“Otherwise, whatever goal you’ve set is just a dream,” says Hank Wagner, dairy producer in Oconto Falls, Wis. “There’s not an hour that goes by that I’m not thinking about personal goals and how our business can help me accomplish them,” he adds. “I like to be able to look back at the end of the day and decide if it was successful, as set by my own personal goals and objectives.”

Before you begin down this path, however, you must make two commitments, notes Bob Milligan, senior consultant with Dairy Strategies, LLC, a dairy-business-management consulting firm. The first is that you will practice consistency throughout each step and each goal. The second is that you will send the signals to your family, management team and staff that you are serious about this process.

Once you’ve accepted that responsibility, use these steps to help put your goals into action on your dairy. The process may not be easy, but its rewards are many.

1. Begin with a goal in mind.

Using the steps in the article on page 28, determine which goal or set of goals you will start with first.

Remember to focus on only three “wildly important goals” at a time, says Haydn Shaw, senior consultant with FranklinCovey, an internationally recognized business-consulting firm. Once those have been addressed and implemented, you can move onto the next three goals on your master list. But only begin with three.

2. Identify performance gaps.

Now that these goals are on the table, determine which factor or factors you must overcome in order to achieve the desired outcome. That, in turn, will help you see the gap between what is real and what is desired. For example, your first goal says that you want to increase profitability by 5 percent. To do so, you must increase income by $100,000.  

3. Choose the best method for change.

Now you have to figure out which current methods or strategies need to change — and how you will need to change them.

First, decide how to influence your goal so that it becomes a reality, suggests Shaw. In this example of increasing profitability, the way to increase income by $100,000 may depend on harvesting 10 percent more milk.

Then, you need to determine who must accomplish that feat and implement any changes necessary. In this case, it will probably be your entire management team and several of the employees.

Next, set yourself up for success. Bring in key employees for input as you develop your plan of attack. “Leadership gives the ‘what’, employees give the ‘how’,” Shaw says.

Let your personnel help determine how things must be done differently to achieve this goal for your dairy.

Do you need to increase feed quality? Reduce mastitis? Feed more often? Reduce days open? Reduce heat stress? Increase overall cow comfort? Chances are, all of these factors will come into play for the particular goal of harvesting 10 percent more milk. Allow employees to brainstorm the easiest or best way to accomplish these factors. Of course, you can reserve veto power, but take their suggestions into consideration and implement them whenever possible.

Finally, ensure that the people affected will have some degree of control. That is, can the feeders feed more often? Can your cropping employees change harvest strategies to increase feed quality? Also, be sure to give them a little time to adapt to the changes. Most research says that it takes 21 days for change to become a habit, so don’t be surprised if things don’t happen overnight.

That doesn’t mean you excuse those who refuse to change, however. For goals to be effective, there must be consequences for personnel who continually fail to meet them.

4. Determine deadlines.

Next, you need to resolve how long it’s going to take for the desired change to occur. 

A profitability increase, as in this example, should be measured across a year’s time. But you should still revisit the goal periodically throughout the year.

Whatever goal you’ve implemented, come back in a month and evaluate progress, advises Milligan. Are you on target? If not, what happened? Is the goal realistic? Do you need to change key provisions of the goal? Or, do you simply need to alter tasks so that they are more readily accomplished?

5. Enact your plan.

Train and empower employees to do their tasks differently so that the goal can be more readily accomplished. 

Make sure that employees have the tools to help them “win,” recommends Milligan. Invest in training or the physical tools they need to accomplish what has been set out in the goal. “Don’t come down on them in this process so they think these goals are there to regiment what they are doing,” he says. Communicate that the goal exists to offer focus and monitor tasks so that you’re not looking over their shoulder.

Throughout this step, be sure to reinforce the desired outcome through coaching and feedback so that the employees “own” the goal and want to enact the plan.

If your goal requires tasks or processes that no one wants to do, bring in someone else who can help. “Accept your weaknesses and hire those who will help you excel,” says Wagner. “It’s money well spent.”

For instance, neither Hank nor his wife, Pam, was fond of records preparation, a task that grew significantly as their business grew, so they hired someone else to handle it. They still monitor the records carefully, and use them often for business analysis, but Hank and Pam are now free from a job they dislike.

6. Focus on continuous improvement.

Finally, make sure that your goals and processes are not a one-time event, but rather a process. Be sure to communicate this to your entire team. Again, aim for consistency. If you say you are going to revisit something in a month, then you must do so in a month — not in three weeks or not in five weeks.

To help, Shaw suggests that you create a scoreboard, detailing in simple terms the critical steps needed to make the goal work. The sign needs to be highly visible and offer a way for employees to know whether they are winning or losing. Set it up in three- to six-month increments or stages, showing what has been accomplished on the way to meeting the goal and what remains to be done.

“When we start keeping score, morale and intensity changes,” Shaw concludes.

Rewarding behavior

For a goal-oriented person, just achieving the goal is reward enough. But for others, it will take more to motivate them. “This is especially important if you are trying to get buy-in from other family members who may not be as interested in achieving a goal as you are,” says Hank Wagner, Oconto Falls, Wis., dairy producer.

For example, an annual business plan that is completed on time could result in the planning of a family vacation. Or achieving low somatic cell counts means a party for milkers. The possibilities are endless. But the bottom line is that rewards for goals achieved will motivate all involved whether the goal is personal or business-related.