At the top of the printed agenda from the manager’s meeting that week in a larger font was the goal they had been working toward for over two years: “30/30 by ’13.” Below it was the explanation: “30,000 Rolling Herd Average, 30 percent Cull Rate by December 2013.” They were goal-driven.

Each week the dairy manager met with the six department managers and each week there was a printed agenda with the overall goal front and center. It was brief, catchy and easy to remember. The staff all knew the goal.

In early October 2013, they weren’t there yet, but they were closing in on the goal. Rolling herd average was up more than 1,000 pounds per cow over the past 16 months and climbing.

“That is the value of being goal-driven — it lays out what you want to achieve and helps you and others focus on achieving that goal. You are more likely to achieve a goal that is expressed, written and known,” Phil Durst said.

The night the Michigan State University Extension dairy expert returned from his visit with the dairy farm he read a CEO’s response to a question about what he did when he travelled. One of the things the CEO said he did was reread his goals, as a reminder to himself of what he was working to achieve, where he wanted to take the business and how he should devote his time.

“These were both powerful statements to me of the importance of being goal-driven.

Let’s be clear, goals are something that you set as important to you and your business, organization or life. Like the visited farm’s goal, they should be clear, defined and with a deadline. Then everyone should know them,” Durst said.

In the dairy farm’s case, they had Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for other areas of the operation; KPIs that supported the overall goals they sought to achieve. In the calving area, a calf care report was posted. Employees recorded information about each calving. The manager of that area summarized the results for the month. On the report for September was listed the number of births, the number and percent of calves born dead, calves born in the freestalls, cows with milk fever, retained placenta and metritis. In a column beside each measure reported were their goals, or KPIs, for those measures.

Then for each weekly manager’s meeting, the performance was recorded on the agenda and each department manager reported on it.

“Goals are not magic. Goals should be set at an achievable level, but just because we set a goal doesn’t mean that we will achieve it,” Durst said.

He added that the dairy farm’s goal for calves being born in the freestalls rather than in the maternity pen was zero percent, and they were running 6% to 9% over the past several months. That highlighted where improvements needed to be made and, because all employees signed off on calvings, it also highlighted who needed to improve.

At the bottom of the manager’s meeting agenda were the “Main objectives for the staff” that were broader objectives of the farm. Three main objectives provided guiding principles for the staff.

Durst said the operation achieved much because they were all focused. From the owners to the manager, to the middle managers to the employees, they knew what the expectation was and they knew what was important. They were goal-driven.

“Personally, it was a great reminder to me of the value of that. In my role as a Michigan State University Extension dairy educator, I need to be goal-driven to meet the needs of the people I serve,” Durst said. “Maybe you see the value for yourself as well. You don’t need to wait until a new year or even a new month. Set aside some time this week to talk with others about good and attainable goals for your operation, then make them known.”