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Quantitative & Qualitative Goals

At the outset, let me mention something about myself; I am a planning oriented person. That basically means that setting goals, strategising, and helping others do the same come naturally to me (the Analytical). When it comes to execution though, I rely on many others with the desirable skill and will to achieve the set goals, even if it's set for myself. And I've done this for many years, it's not only my strength but also something that I enjoy doing, which at least according to John Holland makes it a good vocational choice for me.

Similarly, there are people who are good at executing the set goals (the Driver) and probably need help with setting them in the first place. That's where this article is headed, to help the latter set better goals so they can execute and achieve it better. Because a lot of times,

Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days. - Zig Ziglar


Speed is useful only if you are running in the right direction. - Joel Barker

So with these two quotes in mind, let's jump in to understand the why-what-how of Quantitative & Qualitative goals and hopefully this helps the Drivers with better direction. And just in case you are good at both setting and executing goals then as I mentioned above, there are two types of people in this world - the Analytical and the Driver - you are better than both of them.

Common Misconceptions

While I'm at it, let me mention a few misconceptions with both these types of goals before I explain it further in the below sections:

  1. Quantitative Goals are Objective whereas Qualitative Goals are Subjective: This is usually related to the quantifiable aspect of goals and many believe that qualitative goals can only be observed (may be by a manager) and cannot be measured. This is incorrect! Every goal needs to be measurable (that's the M in SMART).

  2. Quantitative Goals are Leading Indicators whereas Qualitative Goals are Lagging Indicators: Absolutely NOT! This misconception originates usually due to the way we apply a measure where a Quantitative goal is probably achieved before a Qualitative goal. That definitely doesn't mean that they are co-related as such, but more on this below.

  3. OKRs - Objectives are Qualitative Goals whereas Key Results are Quantitative Goals: Both an Objective and its Key Results can be Quantitative or Qualitative, that's because of the cascading nature of OKRs. This is relatively a longer topic and I will not discuss it here, however if you're interested in knowing more then you can hear the details on my Podcast.

What are Quantitative Goals?

My simplistic answer to this question would be, it's the measurable action that takes you closer to your ultimate objective. This may sound counter-intuitive since I'm speaking of goals but I'm defining it as an action; the reason I say this is because:

  • a goal needs to be actionable

  • a goal can be decomposed into smaller goals (e.g. milestones) which when completed achieve the higher goal (similar to cascading OKRs)

For example, one of my ultimate objectives is to educate professionals so they can become better at what they do. I utilise multiple mediums through which I can achieve this goal like articles / blogs, podcasts, conference talks, mentoring & coaching, etc. I would like to teach as much as I can however since this is beyond my usual work, I assign a few stretch goals for myself:

  • Publish one blog / article every Saturday on LinkedIn, Medium, and my Website

  • Launch the second season of my podcast (s2 ep.1) by end of July

  • Release one podcast episode every two weeks starting August

  • Submit a proposal on Agile Capability Development for the Agile India Conference before the final submission date

These goals are Quantitative in nature since I can plan my resources to complete these and they carry very clear measurements. In essence, these are SMART.

Quantitative Goals are essential to push our boundaries to outdo ourselves continuously and consistently. These are important to me because these ensure that I'm creating enough content to educate professionals, however my Quantitative Goals by itself may not guarantee that I'm moving in the right direction where I'm ensuring that more and more professionals are getting educated by my content. That's where I need Qualitative Goals.

What are Qualitative Goals?

My simplistic answer to this question would be, it's the measurable result that takes you closer to your ultimate objective. This sounds counter-intuitive as well since I'm speaking of goals but I'm defining it as a result; the reason I say this is because:

  • a goal needs to be results-oriented

  • a goal needs to provide proof that the desired ultimate objective (or its milestones) have been achieved (a sense of direction)

For example, with my set of Quantitative Goals to create different types and volume of content, here are the Qualitative Goals that I need to achieve:

  • My blogs / articles receive an average of 1000 views per month by December (across LinkedIn, Medium, and my Website); else I'm not creating the right content or using the right medium to share this content

  • My podcast has an estimated audience of 100 per episode by December (measured via Anchor); else I'm not creating the right content or not marketing my content enough

  • I make 50 new LinkedIn connections by December originating because of my content (measured via conversations); else I don't carry enough Thought Leadership

  • My proposal gets accepted for the Agile India Conference; else it's not worth a discussion or the world is not ready for it yet

These goals are Qualitative in nature and they carry very clear measurements as well. In essence, these are SMART (objective, not subjective). Qualitative Goals ensure that our efforts are in the right direction and when its progress is checked frequently, it can help us pivot our actions before it's too late, even retract if necessary.

These however are more difficult to predict and are usually what get translated into the Leading Indicators of success. For me, my Qualitative Goals ensure that I'm creating content that professionals need and I devise strategies and tactics to ensure that they receive it.


To wrap up,

  • both Quantitative & Qualitative goals must be objective / measurable

  • both Quantitative & Qualitative goals are needed to drive fast in the right direction

Hope this article helps you with your goal setting and incase you're looking for a coach to help you identify your goals, I'll be happy to help.

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