What do good objectives look like? A framework for professional services

What do good Objectives look like? AIMS FAST SMART OKR

June 27, 2023

Logan Balavijendran
Head of CX
Performance Leader

October / November is a good time to review and refresh of goals and objectives. Reviews are (mostly) done, the end of year is approaching and there could be some space for partners and teams to do some planning.

This can be easier said than done. While everyone agrees objectives are important often there’s no clear agreement on

  1. what do good objectives look like?
  2. how often are they set and reviewed?
  3. how do we support and measure success?

These are big weighty issues and the answers will vary by organisation. In our September Best Practice Group session we dipped into The Partner Remuneration Handbook to shed some light on question 1 - "What does a good objective look like?"


There are hundreds of objective setting frameworks and each have their own pros and cons. We like ones that are simple to understand, relevant to your business and reflect the priorities of your organisation. What is the purpose of an objective at your organisation?

Some of the most common frameworks are:

  • SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound
  • FAST: Frequent discussed, Ambitious, Specific and Transparent
  • OKR: Objectives and Key Results

SMART is probably is most common, but we feel it’s too granular and doesn’t capture important collaborative aspects of goals. Some also argue that focusing on “Achievable” and “Realistic” encourages simple and safe goals.

However none of the common frameworks really champion collaboration and personal meaning. Which is why we’ve come up with our own.

person holding black red yellow and green round analog clock
Ready, Aim, set objectives!


Performance Leader have devised our own framework, AIMS, which stands for

  • Action – what are the concrete actions that I will take and when will I take them?
  • Impact – how will this help my firm or department achieve its goals? How will I measure the impact?
  • Meaning – how will this goal be meaningful for me? Why do I care about it in a personal sense, not just a business sense?
  • Sharing – who else in this firm shares this goal? How can we work together to achieve it or something greater?

In discussion with our BPG community, clients liked the simplicity of AIMS and the emphasis on meaning and sharing. They felt this was clearly missing from most objective setting frameworks and was an important aspect of why objectives were important to them - objectives were not about managing tasks, but really a means to inspire meaningful work and encourage impactful collaboration.

The three clear differentiators of AIMS

  • it makes clear the alignment between the firm strategy (”impact”) and personal motivation (”meaning”). Why is this important to the firm and to you?
  • highlights and increases motivation by focusing on “meaning”. Personal meaning is often ignored in business goal-setting, but is powerful motivator and is common in learning, health and rehabilitative settings.
  • encourages collaboration by asking you to explicitly consider who else can you work with to achieve this goal. Making goals visible is not enough to encourage collaboration - answering “who else shares this goal” forces a team-first perspective.

Some other questions about objectives / goals:

  • What should goals be based on? Objectives should align to your firm strategy and role. Review your firm strategy and competency-framework, and tick your goals off against them. But they should also align to your personal motivations or strengths.
  • What is the right number per person? 3 to 5 is a nice number. But this should be balanced by the size and length of each objective.
  • How long? Depends on your role and focus, but a balance of short, middle and long-term goals work well. Have one or two that are task oriented that you can smash out with some focus, and at least one that will stretch you and will require support and collaboration to succeed.

The framework is just one part of a successful objective setting culture, but it’s an important first step. It affords consistent shape and language with which you can articulate and share goals. Once people are comfortable setting and sharing goals, as a firm you can work through the process of balancing, supporting and assessing them.

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