One of the most important steps in managing change is to set new goals as you implement the change.

Goals set the future direction of your business and for the people associated with it. While most producers try to set goals for their dairy enterprise, they often come up short on the goal-setting process. This lack of communication often leads to marginal results and frustration for those responsible for achieving the goals.

Here’s how to set SMART goals.

Getting started

Goals must be consistent with the dairy enterprise’s vision and mission statements. If you don’t have a vision — a practical dream of where you want to go — and a mission statement that defines how you plan to get there, you should develop these before drafting your business’ goals.

I recommend developing both annual and five-year goals. Doing so will help clarify the future direction you want to take.

Every dairy needs two types of goals — “results” goals and “value” goals. Results-oriented goals define your future direction and performance. Value-oriented goals define the impact that you want to have on employees, suppliers, peers, family members and the community at large. Value goals are lived every day. They sustain the efforts that you and others have put into the success of your dairy operation.

Unfortunately, producers often fail to set value goals. They set results goals, but are either unaware of or choose to ignore value goals. Not having value goals often leads to a “gap” between the results and goals.

Test your goals

With these ideas in hand, you can now start setting goals for your dairy. I recommend that each goal be tested against the SMART principle. If it doesn’t fulfill the following five criteria, then you’re not done defining it yet.

S — Specific. Goals need to be specific and narrowly defined. A goal to improve milk production doesn’t provide enough detail. But, a goal to improve milk production by 5 percent during 2004 does.

M -— Measurable. All goals must be measured against the desired result. A goal to improve your golf score this year doesn’t allow for measurement. However, a goal to improve your golf score by three strokes from an 85 to and 82 — specifically, through an improvement in putting — gives us a measurement.

A -— Attainable. All goals must be attainable. Otherwise, they become useless because those responsible for achieving them put forth little or no effort.

R — Realistic. Goals must be realistic in order to get people committed and motivated. Goals should stretch our abilities, but not be impossible to achieve.

T — Tracking and Communicable. Goals must be clearly understood and allow everyone involved to track results. Without a system to track progress, you often fall short of desired results and have no opportunity to make adjustments to improve performance.

There is no “I” in team

Goals cannot be dictated. You and your team — family members and key employees — should work together to develop SMART goals. Doing so helps build buy-in, commitment and dedication toward achieving those goals. Once goals have been written, you are ready to identify the strategies and tactics that can be employed to make the goals a reality.

Not taking the time to set goals for your dairy is like going bowling without any pins to knock down. Just rolling a bowling ball down the lane without any pins to knock down is meaningless, and becomes boring very quickly. Operating a dairy without goals often has similar results — especially for family members and employees. For best results, give your team some pins to knock down.

Monte Hemenover is a dairy industry consultant and president of Avenues For Change in St. Louis, Mo.