The end of the year was looming. I sat with my directors in a brainstorming session. We had previously walked through a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). We had identified dozens of ideas in each category of the analysis, using the process that I described in When To Use a SWOT Analysis. Now how would we proceed from SWOT analysis to goal setting?


This was an annual ritual. But I wanted it to be more focused. I wanted the team to create really meaningful goals. Our goal setting charge was to create four or five management goals for each department that would be challenging, but attainable. These goals would help to advance the mission and the vision of the organization.

We had a construct that we followed. It consisted of “pillars” from the management plan overview that each department would try to address. Depending on the department, there might be more goals in a certain pillar. For example, the Director of Quality would have more goals under the Quality Pillar than under the Finance Pillar.


My job was to encourage discussion and help the directors select goals that would align with the strategic imperatives of the organization. I would also prod them to aim for targets beyond their comfort zones. Then, I would be incorporating their goals into the overall goals for my division. I would later present my goals to the CEO and the  rest of the senior management team for discussion and approval.

All of the goal setting that we did served two primary purposes. The goals would help us focus on important strategic objectives during the coming year. They would also be used to develop the budget, assisting in estimating the expected capital expenditures and any new revenues and expenses.

From SWOT Analysis to Goal Setting

Here is what we did. We created goals that represented the intersection of the Strengths and Weaknesses with the Opportunities and Threats from the SWOT analysis as depicted in the following table:


We started by answering the following questions derived from the grid, using what we learned from the SWOT Analysis:

  1. For my department, how can we utilize our strength(s) in ____________ to take advantage of the opportunity to _____________ ?
  2. How can we utilize our strength(s) in _____________ to minimize the threat of ______________ ?
  3. How can we take advantage of the opportunity to _______________ to minimize our weakness in _____________ ?
  4. What additional steps can we take to reduce our weakness in ______________ ?

For each department, the director was charged with working through each of the SWOT components with their teams and generate multiple answers to each of these question.

Example Using the Medical Group

Imagine that one of the directors is responsible for the medical group, and that a SWOT analysis was done regarding expansion into a new geographic area with primary care or urgent care services. Here are some of the findings from the imaginary SWOT analysis described previously in When to Use a SWOT Analysis.



  1. Strong brand recognition of the hospital system
  2. Financial strength – good reserves and cash flow
  3. Strong interest by medical group primary care department to staff the clinic
  4. Strong management team with expertise in opening new clinics in retail settings


  1. No expertise in urgent care
  2. Multiple competing strategic initiatives already in place
  3. Recent difficulty in recruiting support staff


  1. Under-served population – there is a demonstrated need for primary care services
  2. There is vacant rental space available at low-cost
  3. The community is supportive of a new clinic and job creation


  1. Large percentage of uninsured in the market
  2. Competitor may be looking to establish a clinic in the same market
  3. Some of the hospital medical staff (not employed) may be threatened by opening a hospital based clinic in their backyard

Now let's complete some of the questions to prepare for goal setting:

  1. For my department, how can we utilize our financial strength and strong interest by medical group to staff the clinic to take advantage of the (opportunities of) a demonstrated need for primary care services and vacant rental space?
  2. How can we utilize our strong management team to minimize (the threat of) the large percentage of uninsured in the market?
  3. How can we take advantage of (the opportunity of) community support to minimize our (weakness in) difficulty in recruiting support staff?
  4. What additional steps can we take to reduce our weakness in expertise in urgent care?

Based on the answers to these questions, the team completing this process might come up with the following goals for the next year. Note that many more goals could be developed just using this partial list of questions.

Goal #1:

Work with the CFO to create a pro forma for the opening of a new clinic with one physician – to be completed by the end of the first quarter.

Goal #2:

Meet with the medical group by the end of the first quarter and discuss a plan for staffing a new clinic by the end of the year. Present the staffing plan for the new clinic to the senior executive team by the end of the second quarter.

Goal #3:

Meet with staff from the billing department to discuss opening a new clinic. Have them create a checklist and timeline of items to complete before opening the new clinic. Focus on having all available commercial, Medicare and Medicaid contracts in place prior to going live. Have the checklist ready to present with the other reports at the end of the second quarter.

goal setting office equipment

Goal #4:

In planning the office space, complete the following tasks by the end of the second quarter:

  1. Contact the owner of the vacant clinic space and obtain information about possible lease terms;
  2. Create a proposed floor plan and work with the hospital Facilities Department to estimate the build-out costs;
  3. Develop a list of initial supplies and equipment needed for the new clinic.

Each of these proposed goals would then be discussed further. I would encourage my directors to expand the scope of each one a little, while pushing for a more aggressive timeline. The goals would then be presented to the executive team, where their impact on other departments would be assessed.

Areas for collaboration would be identified. The CEO would present the final document with all of the divisional management goals to the board of directors for approval. The CFO would probably present the budget to the board at the same meeting, if time allowed.

With that accomplished, we would shortly begin the process of implementing our plans and achieving our goals.

Is it clear as mud? Any Questions?

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