As India launches its first moon mission, I’m reminded of JFK’s 1962 “moon speech”, when the US president famously said, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

Sixty years later and Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, is under pressure to deliver five targets he set only six months ago. At the time he set the objectives, which covered inflation, economic growth, reducing debt, cutting hospital waiting lists, and establishing laws to stop channel migrant boat crossings, the consensus was that they weren’t challenging enough.

Fast forward a few months and Sunak and his government look like they may fail to meet any of their self-imposed objectives. As some commentators have joked, Sunak’s “moon speech” should be, “We choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because we thought they would be easy!

When I work with my clients on strategy projects, agreeing a clear and compelling #1 goal is a critical task. As JFK said, the goal serves to inspire and focus “the best of our energies and skills”, creating the necessary zest for action and delivery.

At Topps Tiles, for example, we set a goal of growing the company’s retail share of the UK tile market from 25% to 33%. Critically, that goal was not a target. It stood as a sign of ambition and inspiration for the business, but it wasn’t part of the budget-setting process. Nevertheless, the company achieved its goal in less than five years.

The problem for Sunak is that he has set himself specific targets that he must meet, not a goal that he can use to inspire the country. Targets and objectives are important. They help ensure that the business delivers the right levels of performance. But goals are important too, giving everyone in the organisation a sense of mission.

What are the big goals that your organisation is choosing to pursue?


Off The Record: The Whole of the Moon by The Waterboys

I pictured a rainbow,

You held it in your hands,

I had flashes – but you saw the plan,

I wandered out in the world for years,

While you just stayed in your room,

I saw the crescent,

You saw the whole of the moon.