You may have noticed that in Annual Plans that you have the ability to create Objectives, whereas in Quarterly Plans you create Initiatives. And visually they look an awful lot alike. So what's the difference? And why on earth do you care, right?

Well it turns out that there is a difference when it comes to successfully implementing change in an organization. (And let's face it - that's really what we are doing at the end of the day here, right? The entire reason you are on this platform is to make a positive impact on the way your organization is run and how you deliberately grow value.) Let's dig in on the two and sort it out.

What is an Objective?

Objectives are thematic. They are the idea - the "what", if you will - of where you are intending to drive your organization. Objectives are the "handwave" that executives are often fond of. Examples might be:

  • "Become the Number 1 distributor of fidget spinners in the Midwest"

  • "Optimize marketing process to generate sufficient leads for sales team"

  • "Have a CSAT score of 9.1 or above"

These are all aspirational. They are great goals for an organization... but they really don't paint any picture of how we might achieve them.


Initiatives are the "how." Whereas an Objective is thematic, an initiative is the detailed, tangible project that helps implement an Objective. Initiatives are where the rubber starts to meet the road. In fact, if we don't have solid initiatives and if we don't execute on those initiatives.... then an Objective is really just a wish, right?

Initiatives are also more measurable. Recall that acronym about goals being SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Bound)? Well initiatives are often SMART. For instance on the Value Scout platform Initiatives contain:

  • Due Dates

  • Owners

  • Value Estimate (e.g. estimate of enterprise value increase)

  • Level of Effort

  • Progress indicators

These elements make Initiatives very workable from a planning perspective.

Here are some examples of initiatives (And the objectives they support):

  • "Open 2 additional locations in 3Q" >> in order to "Become the Number 1 distributor of fidget spinners in the Midwest"

  • "Build 3 new evergreen funnels and email nurturing journeys" >> to "Optimize marketing process..."

  • "Implement training program for Customer Success Team" >> to "Have CSAT Scores of 9.1...."

So Why Objectives AND Initiatives?

You might be wondering why we don't just simply use Initiatives, right? They are specific and actionable, after all. Well it turns out that it's really hard to focus on an Initiative over the course of an entire year. Objectives are in turn our "North Star." They are the general direction that we are driving the ship throughout the year. Because they are thematic they are ideal for longer periods of time.

Think of it this way:

  • Objectives are thematic, long range, and our North Star. They are the "what" in a plan. We work towards Objectives.

  • Initiatives are action oriented. They are SMART, they are time bound, and they are the "how" we implement Objectives. We work on Initiatives.

Ultimately we need both to have a cohesive long range plan. Our Objectives help us guide long range performance and our initiatives help get the work done.

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