What Is the Difference Between Goals & Targets in Business?

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Company leaders may refer to both goals and targets in strategic planning meetings.
Company leaders may refer to both goals and targets in strategic planning meetings. (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images)

The terms "goal" and "target" are often used in the same way when company leaders discuss plans. The applicable difference between these words varies. Two factors often included in distinguishing between them are the level of influence and the quantification of the desired outcome.

Level of Influence

Your ability to influence an outcome dictates whether it is a goal or target. A goal is something you want to achieve that you have control over. A target is something you want to achieve, but you have limited ability to influence the outcome. You have control over the pace at which you complete a project, so a completion date is a goal. Achieving a certain number of Twitter followers in a certain time period is an uncontrollable target.

Ability to Quantify

In some cases, "goal" refers to a non-quantified desired outcome, while "target" refers to a quantified desired outcome. Developing the highest-quality product in your industry is a goal, for instance. Achieving a positive customer satisfaction survey score of 96 percent is an example of a target.

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