How to Set Stretch Goals

September 1, 2023
how to set stretch goals

It’s important to be realistic when setting goals and objectives for yourself and your organization. If your target is truly ungrounded and impossible to reach, you may find your team burning out with little to nothing to show for their efforts, and this can spell death for morale and motivation. 

However, growth doesn’t happen when a company plays it safe all the time. It is equally important to imagine what the possibilities might be if you manage to exceed your own expectations. 

In this article, we’re going to talk about stretch goals: what they are, how to set them, and why you need to make them for your company. 

What Are Stretch Goals?

Stretch goals are targets which you set beyond your initial objectives in the event that you beat that first goal. If you raise more money, receive a better promotion, complete a project in record time, you will want to have plans in place which can help you, your team, and other contributors understand what to do next, and what their responsibilities will now be. 

Setting stretch goals can also serve as a means to motivate an organization, individual or group and challenge them to push past mediocre standards of achievement. They are “… management moon shots—goals that appear unattainable given current practices, skills, and knowledge.” Stretch goals are often used to inspire and re-engage contributors, or to change current policies or activities which are causing an organization to stagnate.

There are two distinct types of stretch goals, commonly referred to as ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ stretch goals. 

Vertical stretch goals are those which motivate your team to aim higher with current resources, projects and objectives. This might look like setting your fundraising goal at 500,000 dollars and adding a stretch goal of an additional 100,000. Vertical stretch goals function to elevate activities already undertaken. 

Horizontal stretch goals are all about finding novel approaches to old problems. They challenge a team to expand outward rather than upwards, and often necessitate that groups or individuals be equipped with new responsibilities and skills to increase their capacity for achievement. This might look like training your marketing team on a new social media platform to tap into a wider customer base. 

Stretch Goal Best Practices

Stretch goals can quickly whip a sluggish team into shape, but they have to be applied carefully if they are going to be effective. Here are a few tips for setting stretch goals that work.

  • Use when necessary. If something isn’t working, or if something is working but the results are uninspiring, that’s when you should think about setting stretch goals for your team or organization.

    Stretch goals can be the difference between a mediocre result and one which accelerates your business. However it can also place unwarranted levels of stress on an already high-performing team. If innovation and achievement are the standard within your organization, stretch goals might not be called for.

  • Let teams set their own stretch goals. Your employees will have the clearest picture of their own competencies and skill sets. Freeing a team to create its own objectives often yields the best results as contributors are able to tailor stretch goals to the abilities in which they are most confident.

    You can set initial parameters for them which help to align their goals with organizational objectives, then liberate them to make their own plans within those parameters. This can also help them feel more important and better engaged with the company’s vision.

  • Be clear. If you keep beating your objectives, it can be tempting to write your stretch goals as “just keep it going.” But taking this approach can allow stretch goals to stretch too far, which is when they fail.

    Your stretch goals should be as clear and well thought-out as your initial objectives. They should be specific, measurable, and accompanied by a roadmap which tells you precisely which steps you need to take in order to achieve these objectives. We’ll talk more about how to write stretch goals in the next section.

How to Write Stretch Goals 

Stretch goals should always be written in tandem with an initial target. A standard goal is usually one which you are sure you can reach, with the stretch goal setting an additional objective should you, your team, or your organization demonstrate exceptional performance. 

To write a stretch goal, begin with a standard objective and assign a precise metric which will let you know you have achieved that initial target. Next, create a statement which defines target parameters beyond the first objective. This is your stretch goal.

Following are several examples of what a stretch goal can look like for teams, individuals, and organizations. 


Organizational objective: Increase bottom line revenue by 25%.

Stretch goal: Increase bottom line revenue by 150%, become market leader in tri-state area. 


Team objective: Gain 500,000 followers on the company instagram account. 

Stretch goal: Gain 2million followers on the company instagram account, increase viewer engagement to 95%.


Individual objective: Deliver research report to department head on time with 100% positive feedback.

Stretch goal: Head follow-up research team, get hired as Director of Research in my department. 

OKRs and Stretch Goals

Objectives and Key Results is a goal-setting strategy designed to define the steps and resources you will need to engage in order to reach your target. OKRs additionally help to define the roles and responsibilities of individuals in supporting organizational or departmental objectives. 

Stretch goals can easily be incorporated into a larger OKR plan as an eventuality of exceptional performance. And stretch goals themselves may be written as OKRs, driving achievement by defining grounded actions to be taken towards audacious and challenging additional objectives.

Ronny Cheng

By Ronny Cheng

Ronny Cheng is a digital marketing consultant helps businesses of all sizes build high-performing digital marketing strategies that drive revenue.

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