Farm Goals and Values
Farm goals and values, based on the farm mission, are the foundation for your business, including how you work with your employees.
Without identifying goals and recognizing what you value, you have no basis for determining what your farm policies should be, and what the procedure is for carrying out these policies.
Policies and procedures, or P&P's, begin with your goals and objectives.
Based on your values, and the culture of your farm, your P&P's could range from flexible guidelines to rigid rules. For example, your policies may state, as a berry producer, that there will be no vacations during the strawberry season. It is your decision whether to interpret these as the absolute, no-exception-ever rules, or to be willing to occasionally make adjustments. If families are important to you, you might make the exception of an employee taking a long weekend, even during a busy season, to attend an important family function.
What does a successful farm business look like and feel like to you?
Setting Farm and Family Goals
Excerpt and adaption of
Defining Farm and Family Goals
Vern Pierce and Joe Parcell
University of Missouri
- Have you set short and long-term farm and family goals?
- Have you written them down?
- Does everyone in know what those goals are so they can help achieve them?
- Have you set a time-frame to accomplish them?
- Has everyone who will be affected by these goals had an active role in setting them?
The mission is the "big picture" of the farm. The mission of the farm summarizes why it exists. At first glance, the mission of a farm may be quite apparent, i.e. to raise beef calves. Yet, it is amazing how many producers are unsure as to why they are actually in the business.
The reasons managers report for being in farming are based on personally held values of all members of the farm business.
For example, one farm mission might be "to produce and market high quality beef in sufficient quantity to provide a good standard of living for our family." The value that is held high by this farm manager is to provide a good standard of living for all family members. To support this special priority will be the production and marketing of high quality beef to accomplish that mission. This mission summarizes a long-term vision and establishes a broad commitment to reach this vision. Most importantly, it provides a framework against which activities and investments can be measured as to their impact on the stated mission.
Examples of portions of well-written mission statements:
- To maintain an adequate standard of living over the next five years while increasing my net worth to an amount that will allow me to retire.
- To save enough money to put each of our children through college and build equity in our farm.
- To expand our profitable operation enough to provide income sufficient to support our two children's families, who work on the farm, at a comfortable standard.
After identifying a farm's mission, the next step is to draft objectives. Objectives are general statements that give direction and help the manager focus on action steps to achieve the mission. They outline what the farm family wants the farm business to look like in the future.
For example, the following objectives might support the mission already mentioned: "Increase calf pounds sold per cow" and "Breed and sell quality replacement heifers". By accomplishing these two objectives, the farm's mission of producing and marketing high quality beef will be partially attained. Objectives are the aim given to the mission, which is the "big picture." They begin to specify the "How" part of fulfilling the mission.
Seeing the big picture does not replace the need for a more specific road map for each job. For this reason, we need to set goals. Goals are defined as being specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timed statements of what is to be done en route to the accomplish the farm's objectives and mission. They include a specific action, a monitoring system for control and a reward for completion.
Goals are stated in quantitative terms such as dollars, numbers or levels, and provide motivation, organization and measures of progress.
In sports, is it important to get a ball in a basket or a hockey puck into a net? This allows you to get points to win the game! The team's mission is to have a successful season. The objective of the team is to win the game, the goal might be to reduce the number of missed shots by 50 percent. The successful completion of the specific goal will lead to accomplishing the objective.
For instance, in the farm mission example, "reducing calf death loss by 25% in two years," may be set as a goal to help meet the objective of "increasing calf pounds sold per cow."
To differentiate between objectives and goals, remember that goals are the specific activity for accomplishing the objective which, in turn moves you in the direction of the mission. Reducing death loss does not increase the standard of living for the farm family but does help produce more high quality beef which you plan to sell for a higher price.
Goals as part of planning
Planning activities is easier if you know what you are trying to achieve. Not setting objectives or goals can lead to situations where you respond to all the urgent tasks, but never have time for other important activities.
Responding to all urgent matters is good in emergencies, but it may leave no time to accomplish planned activities that support your objectives and goals.
This might explain why people who do not feel in control of their surroundings often don't set goals and objectives and write them down to help them stay focused.
The farm managers who set objectives with help from their employees and family members free themselves from urgent tasks so they can concentrate on those tasks that require organization and planning.
The employee becomes responsible for accomplishing objectives (which may include setting up emergency plans, too). The employees and/or family members can focus on daily tasks because they know they're working toward important objectives, and so do you!
Most of us start the goal-setting process by making very general statements. For example:
- To be more financially secure
- To be happy
- To have a healthy family
- To reduce debt load
- To help my children get into (or not get into) farming
- To take some time off occasionally
While these are all important, there are some potential problems with the way they are stated. How will you know when these are accomplished? For example, how will you know when you are "financially secure?" Of course, if you get to a point where you have one million dollars in a savings account, you would probably consider yourself "secure." However, what is a realistic goal? Perhaps what you meant by "financially secure" was that most or all of your debt would be paid off, or that you would have a year's worth of operating expenses in the bank.
Let's look at another example. What does "take some time off occasionally" mean? Do you mean have a week's vacation each year, or not to work more than a few hours on the weekend?
These are common problems with many of the general goals that we set in support of the farm mission. We don't know when they are achieved, and we may have trouble measuring our progress. If we aren't able to say to ourselves, "I have met this particular objective," then we don't feel we are making progress.
Seven Steps for Setting Goals
Goal setting requires creative thinking. Goals can be numerous and varied, short-run and long-run, monetary and non-monetary. Goals are personal and unique to you or your family. They reflect your values and beliefs, the resources you have to work with and the opportunities and limitations that you face. Because the work to achieve goals often requires the cooperation of family, the goal setting process should involve discussion and compromise among family members. Here are seven steps suggested for setting goals:
To determine where to go in the future, assess where you have been in the past.
Review some recent decisions, and ask yourself:
Why did I/we do that?
Do I/we still feel that way now?
Review experiences you have liked or disliked, and ask what this tells you about your interests and values. Did those decisions move you or your business in the right direction? If so, did you plan it that way, or did it just work out in your favor? This step will help set the stage and get you thinking about making decisions, because the result will help you achieve your goals.
Assess family and farm resources (including yourself) and planning restrictions.
This step helps you decide what you have to work with in your planning. A list of farm and family resources for farm planning should include:
- The land inventory (acres, quality)
- The farm labor supply (number of persons, hours per person, when available, work skills available, etc.)
- Tangible working assets (machinery, equipment, buildings)
- Capital position (funds required, funds available)
- Institutional factors (government, environmental constraints)
- Managerial capacity (skills and talents you have, skills you must purchase)
Develop a farm mission statement.
In this step, develop "the big picture:" Where are you going in life? What do you hope to achieve with your time, effort, money, and management skills? Evaluate your current plan and identify alternatives for the future. You might consider untapped resources, new enterprise combinations, or opportunities to improve market and financial management.
Your mission should include farm business direction as well as family life and personal growth. Community service projects or simply more time to fish may be important. Personal goals might focus on spiritual, intellectual, cultural, or professional growth. Remember, this is the general plan we are setting up! Vagueness is still OK in the "big picture."
Identify objectives and set specific goals.
If something is important enough to be a goal (and not just an activity), it should be put into writing. Writing goals down increases their permanency and provides a reference for decision making and monitoring success.
Write goals as action statements. List activities you intend to carry out during the year to achieve the goal
- Write goals down.
- List farm and personal goals for the short and long run.
- Make your list visible. Post it where you'll see it often.
- When you achieve a goal, check it off your list. This gives you a sense of accomplishment.
For each goal listed, estimate resources needed, the effort (labor and management skills) and financial resources required to carry out the activity, the potential payoffs of the activity and time constraints.
- Goals should be measurable. When possible, goals should be expressed in quantities and measured against time or some earlier performance.
- Goals should result in accomplishments, not just activities. If you can't observe and measure the results, you may have defined an activity rather than set a goal.
Goals should be challenging, but achievable. Goals aren't likely to be pursued with any degree of commitment unless they are both. They should not be so easy that they can be met by "average" effort, nor should they be unrealistically difficult. Unrealistic goals, if not revised, may become a source of frustration and stress because you may not meet them.Specify when the goal is to be attained using realistic deadlines. If the time frame is not a measurable factor (for instance, if your goal is to spend more time with your family), list qualitative aspects you hope to achieve.
To be most effective, set goals with family members rather than for them. Members of your family may be either a resource or constraint in plans. Developing goals as a team gives everyone an interest in achieving them. You may want to set goals individually, then meet as a family to discuss openly each other's goals and their relation to other family and business goals. Resist the temptation to make value judgments about each other's statements. Hold your reactions until other people have fully expressed their ideas.
Write the goal on your calendar to remind yourself of self-imposed deadlines. Having a time-frame for completion holds people accountable and allows you to assess performance often. If you know you have to have your taxes done by April 15, for example, you will make it happen. If the government simply tells you to get your taxes in when your schedule allows, it might not happen.
Priorities can provide clear guidelines for management decisions. To help set goal priorities, ask these questions:
- Which goals are most important for family success? farm success?
- Which short-term goals, if attained, would help meet long-term goals?
- Which short-term goals conflict with, or impede, long-term goals?
- Which short-term goals do not support any long-term goals?
- Which goals are so important that I should include them even if they prevent me from reaching other goals?
High priority goals need not take all your attention and resources away from other goals. Weigh the importance of each task for your long-term as well as short-term goals. Consider your personal life goals as well as your business aims.
Make plans for action and implementing goals.
Action without planning is fatal; planning without action is futile.
Use established priorities to allocate resources to activities and enterprises directly linked to your high priority goals.
- Given your goals, how do you intend to get there from here?
- When will you arrive?
- What are the five most important things you will have to do to achieve your mission?
- Which are most crucial?
Be creative in generating and implementing new ideas. Remember, there may be many "right" ways to achieve a specific goal.
Stay focused on the objective associated with each goal.
Put yourself in a position to achieve your objective and commit yourself to being successful.
Take the ideas you have deemed worthwhile and high priority, and do what's necessary to implement them. Be persistent. Be prepared to act quickly to reach your goal, but also be prepared for a long crusade.
Establish check points to monitor progress. If a goal is 30 days or more away, break it down into intermediate goals. Check points are time periods when you will compare your measured progress with how much time has lapsed toward your established deadline.
Measure progress and reassess goals.
Follow up goal setting and implementation with actual performance measurement and evaluation.
Don't wait until a goal deadline to determine whether goals are being met. Use intermediate progress or performance checks to see how you are doing. Remember the check points?
Analyze both your successes and failures. By studying why a goal was or was not met, you can improve the chances for success next time.
Reward good performance using goal-related rewards. Make each family or team member's good performance known to the other members of the family or team.
Because your goals change over time, you will want to periodically review them to see that they paint a true picture of who you are and where you are going.
To be kept current, all maps, whether of personal paths in life or public roads, must be revised occasionally to adapt to changing circumstances.
Notice that these general objectives guide the manager to the areas of concentration that need attention to fulfill the mission. The goals help all involved know what to concentrate on that will allow the operation to move in the direction the objectives direct. The goals are quantifiable and can be monitored for progress.
Examples of Short-term Farm Goals and Check Points
Goal: Purchase 180 acres of land within two years.
Check point: Find potential land to buy by this fall.
Goal: Reduce operating debt by at least $10,000 per year in the next two years.
Check point: $5,000 reduction after six months.
Goal: Own at least 100 head of cows one year from now.
Check point: Develop budgets by spring to show banker the potential profits of expansion.
Last modified October 10 2005 01:52 PM