Cracking the Code on a Few Key Business Terms

Author: James Western

The nomenclature of business terms is both general and industry specific. It can be hard for employees in one industry to speak to others in a non-competing industry when specific technical terms and acronyms are distributed. “What is the BTD on the ACH this month given the RLM associated with the downturn in mechanical repairs?” What???? Given the technological considerations inherent in specific industries, that is hard to overcome. However, even general terms that are fundamental have diverse interpretations by individuals. For example, what is the inherent difference between “Objectives” and “Goals?” How about “Strategic Objectives” and “Strategic Goals?” Does this even matter, or is this simply akin to saying, “You say tomāto and I say tomɐto.” Let’s start with this statement from Aristotle to answer the question, “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”

Fair enough. I have personally stated the following countless times to employees with whom I work, “We really need to focus on our key objectives,” while at the same time stating that “if we execute against our strategic goals, we will be in great shape!” Was I being redundant and duplicative? If so, how would others know and why does it matter?

Here is why. If the team members with whom I work don’t understand exactly what I mean, how can they effectively execute against what I expect of them? Moreover, if I don’t know precisely what I mean, I am simply throwing terms out for which I can’t hold them accountable. Let me demonstrate my respect for Aristotle and go down a definitional path.

  • Objective – something of importance that one wants to accomplish. When developed at the top of the organization, it is considered Primary.

  • Goal – something of importance that one wants to accomplish in a given time frame with a measurement that will lead to or validate the accomplishment of the Objective. When established at the top of the organization, it is also considered Primary.
  • Strategy – course of action one believes will lead to the accomplishment of the Objective and Goal.
  • Strategic Goal – something of importance that one wants to accomplish by following a specific course of action in a given time frame with a specific measurement that will lead to the accomplishment of the Primary Goal or another Strategic Goal above.
  • Key Activity – work that when performed at the appropriate quality and frequency will result in the accomplishment of the Strategic Goal.

Let’s see how this plays out in a real life example. The owner of an apartment complex lays out the following:

When all the members of the team understand the difference between Objectives, Goals, and Strategy, they can begin to develop Key Activities that when performed will lead to both the Strategic Goal, Primary Goal and Primary Objective. This is very powerful in that each member of the team can now deliberately contribute to the desired outcomes established by the organization, increasing employee engagement along the way. Darn, Aristotle really was a smart sage!

Bryan Ritchie and James Western are co-founders of GrowthSPORT, a successful consulting company whose mission is to improve SCORES (Stimulate Culture, Optimize Results and Engage Staff) for Teams, Divisions, Departments and Organizations through the SPORT model (Strategic Alignment, Personnel Performance, Operational Execution, Results Accountability and Team Strength), which are the Five Core Elements of Success.

GrowthSPORT provides resources, tools and experienced consultants to effectively implement the SPORT performance model from companies ranging from Startups to Fortune 500 companies.

Feel free to reach out to GrowthSPORT at (801) 676-2500 or at


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