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  • Writer's pictureTilo Schwarz

What is a good Target Condition?

How to define better targets for yourself and your team.

We often use terms like vision, challenge, and target condition when defining targets. That can be confusing for people. What is a Target Condition, and what is a Challenge? On what level and with which time horizon do I define Target Conditions?


Hi 21st Century Leaders and Coaches,

When deploying targets in organizations, there are two dimensions: Time and deployment level. We have longterm, midterm, and short term targets. Goals can be on the process level, the team- or value stream loop level, on the department- or value stream level, or taking the whole business into account. So, what is a good Target Condition, and on which level should it be defined? And what is a suitable time horizon?

I find it helpful to think of the term Target Condition in two ways. First, 'Target Condition' as a format for defining targets. Second, 'Next Target Condition' as a short term objective in the direction of what we strive to achieve in the longer term.

The 'Target Condition Format'

We need better targets. When defining goals we often only describe the outcome, the result we want to achieve. That has three significant drawbacks.

  • Result targets encourage for workarounds and quick fixes that don't have a lasting effect.

  • High-level result targets such as revenue, cost, productivity, OEE, lead time, are influenced by so many factors that the contribution of an individual or even a team makes hardly is visible. Factors outside a team's influence can chew up the positive effects and produce an overall negative outcome. That can be demotivating.

  • Result targets do not give a common direction for teams as the influencing factors could be addressed by different, even opposing actions on the process level.

Edward W. Deming put it nicely: "A numeric goal accomplishes nothing without a method. Only the method is important, not the goal. "

Using the Target Condition format is a helpful way to define better targets. Targets that give direction to our team's efforts and focus on getting better results through improving processes.

A good Target Condition has the following four ingredients:

  • Outcome Metric

  • Desired Process Pattern

  • Process- or Progress Metric

  • Due Date

That applies to any target on any deployment-level and time horizon. They all should follow the Target Condition format.


Of course, when deploying targets across an organization, targets should be linked vertically and horizontally. Check out the book Toyota Kata Culture by Mike Rother and Gerardo Aulinger to get helpful tips on that.

Always having a 'Next Target Condition'

When we define goals, a good habit is to think in 3 horizons. Where do we want to be in the long term, let's say 1 year from now? To get closer to that, what do we need to achieve within the next 3 months? And what should we, therefore, strive for in the short term. The latter is probably the most uncommon. We tend to go big when it comes to defining targets. While it is healthy to strive for big in the long run, there are two traps:

  • Having only the big goal defined can keep us from getting stared as it seems overwhelming if not impossible.

  • Having only big goals over long periods often result in big steps as our brain tends to think about all the way to the finish line at once. We plan and implement in huge chunks. That usually is slow and makes it hard to learn and adapt quickly when circumstances change — a risky way to go in a changing world.

Adding a short term objective, a NEXT Target Condition helps to avoid these traps. Hence, the first question of the Coaching Kata: What is your NEXT Target-Condition?


See you next time and as always, focus on people and foster scientific thinking to enable your team to achieve great things together.

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FOOTNOTES: Get more helpful tips on how to successfully lead in chaotic times and coach your team to navigate unknown territory. My free webinar is now available on-demand at


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