Principled Stretching – In praise of Stretch Goals

Principled Stretching - In praise of Stretch Goals

Most of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to realize that these feats were impossible.

Think about the feats that have been achieved and were earlier deemed to be absolutely impossible – the Wright Brothers’ first flight, exploration of space, face transplantation, and the list of such impossible feats will never really end! Throughout history, people belonging to each and every industry are known to achieve impossible feats and greatness. However, there’s always one thing in common in each and every impossible achievement – all of them are ambitious goals that push people to new heights and inspire them to put in the work to achieve impossible results. Goals like these are known as “stretch goals.” 

We all know that the key to establishing a successful organization is to build teams that are motivated, ambitious, driven, and willing to break the barrier of their comfort zone in order to achieve the impossible. Stretch goals abet the organization to do it all! Google co-founder Larry Page said that “I’d rather have the objective be to go to Mars, and if we fall short, we’ll get to the moon,” He agreed that Stretch goals allow companies to go beyond incremental progress and come up with revolutionary products. Ever wondered why stretch goals are always in the buzz and used by top-performing companies like Google? Continue reading further to find out the answer! Towards the end, we will also tell you about a few ways by which you motivate your employees to smash their stretch goals! 

Principled Stretching - In praise of Stretch Goals

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What are stretch goals?

The concept of aiming higher in the work is known as a stretch goal. To simply put, it’s a target that is set above what is anticipated to be accomplished. These goals are about human excellence and not about financial objectives. Financial objectives bring out the selfish genes that skulk in all of us. Instead, stretching goals increases the chances of achieving success. One sets the bar higher with the help of setting stretch goals. 

In an organizational context, these stretch goals challenge the current assumptions and inspire the teams to re-imagine what they earlier thought was impossible. As these goals make one aim for something outrageous, they demand commitment, creativity, and the drive to achieve. 

You must be wondering what if your employee fails? That is okay too! Even if they don’t attain these outlandish goals, they’d have already achieved more than what they would have achieved by sticking to the basic goal. Stretch goals drive employees to a new level of productivity and competence. They result in improving the mindset of the employees and make the team bonds stronger. 

Now, dare if we set aside the concept of stretch goals only because they seem to be impossible to achieve, then we start going down the path of mediocrity. This is why the organizations that aim for achieving persistent success have stretch goals at their core. Achieving a substantial fraction gives your organization a head start over its peers. 

Why does an organization use stretch goals? 

There are numerous reasons for which stretch goals are used by organizations of all sizes all over the world. Regardless of the result, they breathe a new life into the uninspired organizational culture and push teams to achieve better results. 

Using stretch goals along with the regular goals is the way to go if you want to improve employee performance significantly. The juxtaposition between the stretch and regular goals provides a direction for the employees or teams, elucidate the organization’s vision and the minimum targets of the teams. While your regular goals will generally be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound), the stretch goals are grand and call for more effort to achieve the targets that seem out of reach. Apart from this, organizations use stretch goals for:

1. Keeping the organizational employees and teams aligned as well as improving employee performance and collaboration in the organization. 

2. Boosting your organization’s chance of being successful. Even if your teams miss their stretch goals, your organization is more likely to accomplish more than it would have without them. 

3. Inspiring more creativity, effort, and commitment from the employees. it helps in discovering the hidden potential and dawns new ways of performing tasks. 

4. Stimulating peak performances and prompting giant leads of innovation across the organizational employees and teams. 

5. Uplifting the workforce to rethink how to execute their tasks by leveraging the available resources. 

6. Inspiring employees to try new and out-of-the-box strategies to solve problems more expeditiously. 

Providing such broad-spectrum results, stretch goals are known to be even more useful when teams are coasting or are stuck in a rut. No wonder the stretch goal has been a topic that has lured tremendous recognition worldwide. 

Wait, are you still not sure about how your employees will achieve their stretch goals?  Don’t worry – we’ve got your back! 

How to motivate your team to achieve stretch goals

Employees and teams can get complacent and resistant to changes – especially when the organization is already doing well and is well placed on the path to success. To keep your teams competitive and invested in achieving their stretch goals, it’s imperative to:

A) Cultivate a learning environment that allows the teams to take on more ambitious goals.

B) Specify the metrics and give a clear picture of how achieving the stretch goal will benefit them and the organization.

C) Promote more focus towards innovation and excellence and less on the fixed financial targets.

D) Encourage employees to view things from a new perspective where the only way forward is to accomplish the stretch goals

E) Celebrate the small wins as they will breed momentum and commitment. 

F) Consider your organization as its biggest competitor and urge your teams to come up with a solution for the organizational shortcomings.

How to set stretch goals?

We will not look at a few illustrative examples of stretch goals:


The organizations that communicate stretch goals to the external stakeholders might end up misleading them unless they clearly explain to them about the stretch goals. Stretch goals should not be used to raise a stock price or bag funding. These goals should be communicated as a target date but as a vision statement.

Goal – Boost the top line revenue by 20%

Stretch goal – Boost the top line revenue by 70% to establish the organization as the number one real estate organization in the industry. 

Let’s understand the Stretch goals with an example by Measure what Matters 

In 1972, The stretch goals changed the destiny of the Southwest Airlines. How?  The airline was running out of money and as a result, they sold one of their four planes to cover costs, leaving them with three planes that needed to do the work of four. 

It was a matter of 10 minutes when the former VP of Ground Operations, Bill Franklin, calculated that if the planes were in and out of the gate, all happened in 10 minutes. Usually airlines take alomes an hour to turn a plane and doing the same in 10 minutes was a daunting task.

Franklin stood up, keeping only the team members willing to commit to making it happen. Employees, who rose to the occasion calculated the risk together, get the planes cleaned and restocked them back to the air. 

Bottom Link: When implemented correctly, stretch goals can and should stimulate peak performance on teams and encourage trying new ideas, rather than stifling them.


The executive team is generally responsible for exemplifying optimism, ambition, and innovation. As such, the stretch goals are mainly communicated but aren’t certainly chronicled as the performance objectives. An executive with a track record of achieving stretch goals can only do so where the organization is accustomed to exceeding the expectations. 

Goal – Develop 5+ products and launch one by the month of October. 

Stretch goal – Launch a product in October that will become the top-selling product within 6 months of the launch. 


Just like with executives, managers rely on their teams to acquire stretch goals. This is the reason that in some cases high performing teams are able to achieve targets in a few months that would have taken more time by the other teams. Such teams utilize regular goals to manage expectations but use stretch goals as the real target. 

Goal – Enhance the order automation procedure to reduce the order turnaround time by 15 minutes by addressing bottlenecks. 

Stretch goal – Completely automate the procedure of order automation in a pilot that will reduce the average turnaround time by 45 minutes. Develop a business strategy to scale this to all the distribution centers. 


The stretch goals used for the sales department generally offer attractive additional compensation for the sales employees that reach a revenue level that is deemed to be difficult. They stimulate high ambition while setting sales limits at a realistic level.  

Goal – Close deals of at least $40,000 for this quarter to achieve a 10% commission of a year’s recurring revenue. 

Stretch goal – Sales employees attaining the quarterly revenue of $10,000 or higher will bag the incentive of 25% of one year’s recurring revenue for all sales. 


Stretch goals for employees highlight an opportunity for the employees to expand their responsibilities and broaden their talent. In this context, the employee will be expected to commit mistakes that will be viewed as a learning experience and not a performance issue. 

Goal – Deliver code to requirements for the sales project. 

Stretch goal – Act as a team leader and represent the development team with project management, business, and product testing. 

The Stretch goal is the need of the hour. They motivate employees to stretch outside their comfort zones, take on risks, and deliver exceptional performance.

 You know it, we know it, your employees know it. So what are you waiting for? Contact us today to get proficient help with employee engagement and performance management concerns. 

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Gaurav Sabharwal


Gaurav is the CEO of JOP (Joy of Performing), an OKR and high-performance enabling platform. With almost two decades of experience in building businesses, he knows what it takes to enable high performance within a team and engage them in the business. He supports organizations globally by becoming their growth partner and helping them build high-performing teams by tackling issues like lack of focus, unclear goals, unaligned teams, lack of funding, no continuous improvement framework, etc. He is a Certified OKR Coach and loves to share helpful resources and address common organizational challenges to help drive team performance. Read More

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