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5 goal chart types to ensure project success

By: Emily Finlay


Goal charts can take many forms, but they all serve a similar purpose: visualizing the steps you need to take to achieve a goal. In a business environment, you can use goal charts to determine the best way to complete tasks or projects.

You can also use goal charts to improve certain work processes, which can help reduce the amount of time you spend planning out a project, for example, so you have more time for execution.

Creating a goal chart is a great way to identify the goals you need to hit and track your progress toward meeting them.

The benefits of using goal charts are numerous. They can:

  • Provide visibility. It’s hard to meet goals when you don’t know what they are. A goal chart ensures that your objectives are always visible to you and any relevant team members so you can all stay on the same page.
  • Measure progress. It usually takes more than one step to reach a goal. Goal charts allow you to track your progress so everyone involved on a certain project is aware of what’s been accomplished and what’s still left to do.
  • Simplify workflows and processes. Breaking down your main objective into multiple smaller goals is one of the best ways to achieve your desired results. These micro-goals provide a clear roadmap to the end result, and checking off smaller tasks as they go can help keep employees motivated and engaged.

There are many ways and tools that can help to create a goal chart. But no matter the design, your goal chart should include the following elements:

  • The main goal. This is the overarching result you’re looking to accomplish. It should be listed at the top of your chart.
  • Individual steps or milestones. These are the small goals mentioned above. You can break them down by individual tasks, milestones, etc. and assign them to individuals or teams, depending on what level of effort is required.
  • Logistical details. These include the information that will help you complete, track, and measure each of your action steps. For example, you might include deadlines, assignee(s), status updates, and/or links to supporting documents or metrics.

There are really no limits on how you “should” design your goal chart—it’s all about what works best for you and the people or team(s) responsible for achieving the end goal.

Let’s take a look at five different types of goal charts that can be useful in the workplace.

1. Simple goal charts

When you’re setting goals for business reasons, it’s a good rule of thumb to keep things as simple as possible.

Along with making the goal chart creation process easier, simplicity helps increase understanding and buy-in among your teammates, key stakeholders, and anyone else you may need to get on board.

Some of the simplest ways to create a goal chart include:

  • Post-its. Write each goal on a sticky note and place them on a wall in your office (or your home work space) to keep track of them.You can use these sticky notes just like you would the cards in a Kanban board to show the status of each goal, or simply remove each note from the wall once a task or milestone is complete.
  • Poster boards/whiteboards. Physically sketching out your goal chart is another effective method.You can create a thermometer chart, write out a to-do list, draw a Kanban board, or use another organizational system that enables you to view what tasks you’ve completed, which are still open, and how far you have left to go.
  • Typed lists. Goal setting for individual workers may include creating objectives to help your employees improve. Since these objectives are relevant only to that worker, you can create a typed list of goals and action steps that you can use to evaluate progress.You can also reference these personal goal charts when it comes time to hold things such as annual performance reviews.

As you can see, goal charting doesn’t have to be complex. If your chart helps an individual or team reach the intended objectives, consider it a success.

2. Action plans

When you have several steps needed to reach multiple smaller goals on the path towards a major achievement, an action plan goal chart may be the right option.

For example, you may need to create and complete a set of deliverables in order to finish a full project for a client. Each of these deliverables may have its sub-tasks that your team must complete by a certain due date.

An action plan can help organize everything by listing the deliverables (your smaller goals) and their corresponding tasks in the order they need to be finished.

Spreadsheets like Excel and Google Sheets are a good option for these charts. Other potential tools include visual diagrams, such as flowcharts.

You can enhance action plans by adding a row, column, or shape for the name of the person responsible for each task, as well as areas to identify deadlines, priority levels, and status updates.

3. Kanban boards

Kanban boards are a great way to visualize the workflow you need to follow to accomplish a goal. There are many software solutions that offer Kanban board templates, such as MindManager®, which makes the process of creating these types of goal charts fast and simple.

Start by creating a set of columns that show the status of each task or deliverable required to achieve your goal, e.g., “To Do,” “In Progress,” and “Completed.”

Next, create a card for each task, name it appropriately, and move it through the columns as you go to represent the progress you’re making toward the main goal.

For example, if your goal is to send weekly updates to clients, you could break it down into these simple steps:

  1. Get updates from each project lead by the end of each Wednesday.
  1. Download any relevant reports or data by the end of each Thursday.
  1. Send an email to the client with all information and updates by the end of each Friday.

Depending on the complexity and scope of your goal, you may be able to use one board for the entire process. For goals that are a bit more complex, you may require multiple boards.

4. Thermometer charts

Thermometer charts are an easy, visual way to show your team’s progress toward a goal. They are often used during fundraisers to track how much money has been raised and how close the organization is to its overall goal.

While some project organizers use a thermometer shape, any vertical column will work for these types of diagrams. At the start, your chart will be either blank or shaded in one color. As you get closer to achieving your goal, you will fill the chart in with a new color, creating a vertical progress bar.

During a fundraising event, for example, you can add benchmarks to your chart for every $1,000 raised. Every time you receive another $1,000, you fill in the color up to that benchmark.

Similarly, if you want to convert 100 new prospects in a month, you can add benchmarks to your chart for every 10 conversions to mark your progress.

Thermometer charts can also encourage a healthy sense of competition among employees, encouraging participation and engagement that can help you reach your goals faster.

You can draw your thermometer charts or use a stacked column chart in Excel or Google Sheets to monitor your progress.

5. Mind maps

Some goals don’t require a step-by-step or linear process, and instead may require several concurrent processes or workflows to occur in order to reach your intended target.

In this case, a mind map may be the right goal charting tool to use.

If your goal is to enhance team productivity, for example, you can brainstorm improvements that will help your workers be more efficient. By placing “Improve productivity” in the center of your mind map, you can create branches for each action step your brainstorm session produces.

These branches could include “Start meetings on time,“ “Automate data entry,” or “Implement daily check-ins.”

Once you have these smaller action items documented, you can then add details about how you will attain them, when they should be completed, and who will be responsible for each.

MindManager makes mind mapping easy by offering dozens of templates to choose from that can then be customized with shapes, colors, icons, and more to help you achieve your intended goal.

You can also make your goal charts more robust by easily linking to other project documents, helpful links, and more. Your team can also access and edit your mind map simultaneously in real time, which can help you make more progress, faster.

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