This is the second of the N2D Method principles, focusing on the Business Objectives part of the system.
We use the word "business" as convenient but inaccurate shorthand for any type of organisation or grouping of people that share a common purpose or aim. Public sector organisations, for example, might have some commercial objectives but typically have other primary aims. A group of freelancers coming together for a specific project may be thought of as a temporary business.
The system tends to work best when there are a handful of objectives selected for that organisation, so we're looking for the high-level ones. It's up to you, so you could have a very long list of very specific objectives if you like but that can add unnecessary complexity. When consulting, we've found that a long list of specific objectives can often be reduced to a smaller number of higher-level objectives by simply asking "why" a number of times (typically no more than 5).
This is a variation of "root cause analysis" and is a common technique of many management systems like Six Sigma, Lean and Kaizen etc.
We want to increase our social media fans/followers. Why?
Because we want an engaged audience for our products/services. Why?
Because we believe the more people know about our stuff, the more of it they'll buy
The high-level objective in this (admittedly rubbish) example is to Sell More Stuff. Almost every commercial organisation will have this as a high-level objective. In fact, the best high-level objectives often sound idiotically simple.
The Method assesses whether helping your customers achieve their goals is actually helping you to achieve yours.
Initiatives vs Objectives
Sometimes people, quite naturally, confuse Objectives with Initiatives. How can you distinguish an objective (which provides the foundation for the Method) and an initiative (which is a specific tactic you can evaluate in the Initiative Scorecard)?
Here's a mental trick we use sometimes. Imagine a group says they have a business objective to "advertise in France". They have another one which is "increase profits". If you can make a sentence where one has a measurable impact on the other, then the former is probably an initiative, rather than an objective.
Here's the sentence structure:
What impact would [objective A] have on [objective B]?
If the sentence seems sensible and A would certainly have an impact on B, then it's highly likely that A is an initiative rather than an objective.
"What impact would [advertising in France] have on [increasing profits]?" In this example, A is definitely an initiative and should be excluded from the business objectives and held in reserve to evaluate in the Initiative Scorecard.
If you'd like to learn more about setting business objectives, here are some resources for you: