Corporate goal

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Under corporate objectives are understood in business administration objectives that the business are operating basis and promoting operational purpose to serve in the future; they represent the target state aimed at by the company .


Company goals are an expression of the self-image and the demands of a company. If one takes the institutional concept of organization as a basis, one also sometimes speaks of organizational goals. In the context of the incentive-contribution theory (1958) it is assumed that organizations do not have any original goals, but that the organizational goals can be traced back to the individual goals of the organization participants and stakeholders . They use an organization to realize their personal goals (so-called instrumental thesis).


Company goals can be described by target content, target scope, time reference and target carrier. The target content includes value targets ( sales , profitability , annual surplus or costs ), material targets (activities that serve to achieve the value targets) and human targets ( social relationships with employees , suppliers or customers ). The target extent describes the degree of target achievement and determines when a target is considered to be achieved. When it comes to time, there are period targets (profit target budget for the following financial year ) or time targets (completion of a project at a certain point in time). Target bearers are the groups of staff affected by corporate goals ; Individual goals relate to an individual worker (e.g. their management development ), collective goals, for example, affect an entire department (e.g. their cost reduction goals ).

In addition to the generally prevailing profit maximization, there is also the goal of the cost recovery principle (for example in the case of municipal waterworks or waste management ) or the subsidy principle (e.g. municipal museums or theaters ). There are key performance indicators (KPI) that determine the target level. For example, the EBIT margin has developed into a supplementary profitability KPI, and the cash flow has become a financing KPI.

Target background

A corporate goal is a future, generally changed, desirable or desired state that differs from a goal - in the broader sense - in that it is the result of economic decisions . The principles on which these decisions are based can be different, for example the public economy (according to Schmalenbach) or the commercial economy (according to Gutenberg).

In order to be able to align their activities with corporate goals, companies need a defined internal order. The constitutive framework for this is specified by a corporate constitution . Such is usually not available in writing and nevertheless serves as a kind of "basic law" for the company; it is then expressed in the corporate culture .

Against the background of a privately owned company operating according to the commercial principle for the purpose of making profit, the pursuit of profit or profitability is not to be seen as the only, but the most important objective according to the more recent theory of the company. Objectives of non-profit organizations or public companies and administrations require a separate investigation, e.g. B. when it comes to the weighting of the profit target.

The complexity of the subject does not allow general statements to be made about the importance of certain goals in individual companies. It should be noted that there is a wide range of goals in corporate practice, depending on e.g. B. on the respective legal form (under private or public law) or the size of the company ( family company or large company ) (see → Typification of companies )

In general, it can be said that the larger the company and the larger the number of actors and interest groups, the greater the quantity and quality of the organization's goals. One then often speaks of target pluralism. There arise target systems and target hierarchies .

Increasingly complex systems require more differentiated investigation; many more factors have to be taken into account. Here, “simple” company goals can develop into “higher” goals. The strategic management extends the area of ​​investigation to include terms such as the so-called operational purpose , the vision or mission , the corporate philosophy or the corporate mission statement and areas such as corporate policy , corporate constitution and corporate culture.

In small companies of low complexity (few actors / stakeholders) and correspondingly few interactions with society (small company environment), an investigation and scientific consideration of target systems, in the sense of classical business administration, does not usually take place.

Goal setting or goal formation

A goal is one of the basic operational decisions of a company and is usually determined by the company's management.

It was only with the advent of the decision- making approach (Edmund Heinen, 1968) and the systems- theoretical approach (Hans Ulrich, 1972) that it was possible to make targeting in companies possible in German-speaking business administration.

Several interest groups have an influence on the objective, namely investors , market partners ( customers , suppliers), employees , public authorities and social groups. How these - often conflicting - interests are to be optimally taken into account is a main topic of business analysis . Since around two thirds of all companies are sole proprietorships , individual driving forces must not be neglected. Corporate goals of smaller companies, in which the owner also holds the boss position, are thus largely shaped by the private interests of the owner.

Smaller companies are more difficult to capture systemically because many of the models cannot be applied to them. Fewer influencing groups have an impact on them and their individual decisions have less influence. Social science or psychological approaches can be methodological individualism or neo-behaviorism .

Objective functions

Goals have a variety of functions in companies. Corporate philosophy and purpose, for example, define the company's self-image and thus offer employees the opportunity to identify with the company's mission statement and other interest groups an indication of “where the journey is going” - orientation, identification and motivation functions.

If goals are broken down to lower levels, i.e. made more concrete, then they are action goals or instructions - steering, control, evaluation or communication functions.

The strategic planning is to achieve the common and simultaneous determination of the target content and measures / benchmarks to achieve the objectives. The strategic decisions have a lasting and long-term impact on the company's success. Strategy is defined as the basic, long-term behavior (combination of measures) of companies towards their environment in order to achieve long-term goals.

The operational planning is done, the level of short-term corporate planning in the implementation and monitoring of strategic planning. This requires a breakdown of the strategic plans into the (partial) periods of short-term planning and an assignment to the functional areas of the operational organization. The key figure system corresponds to the information needs of the corporate functional areas. Each department head will work with his department to work out specific key figures.

On the basis of the motivational effects of the objectives is management by objectives ( management by objectives used) in many cases as a management tool.

Limitations and Limits

The underlying theory of the company assumes that the actors in the company act rationally , e.g. B. in the manner of a homo oeconomicus (theoretical model of a utility maximizer). Such model assumptions make it possible to depict elementary economic relationships, but are rather unsuitable for a detailed analysis. In the New Institutional Economics , for example, factors such as asymmetrical information , limited rationality and opportunism are taken into account in order to arrive at more realistic assumptions.

The trash can model of the organization (James March, 1972) also suggests that there can be no clear information, goals or measurement criteria, but rather incorrect / missing information and logically incompatible goals in a complex, non-transparent environment.

It is also important to what extent the objectives described by the formal organization are supported by the members. Depending on whether the organizational commitment allows it, in addition to official organizational goals of the formal organization (supported by the management hierarchy), department or group goals as well as goals of the individual members of the organization (individual goals) arise.

Target dimensions

A company usually has several corporate goals. The relevant literature provides for a classification according to 3 target dimensions ; Content, extent and time reference.

It is advisable to operationalize goals with regard to these dimensions (content, extent and time reference) and thus to make them measurable, e. B. according to the SMART method (specific, measurable, demanding, realistic, terminable).

  • Example: Instead of the formulation: “We want to increase our profit”, the goal should be formulated as follows: “We want to increase our profit (target content) within one year (time reference) by 66% (extent)”.

Content dimension

Economic goals, formal or value goals are designations for those goals that reflect the success of entrepreneurial activity. That can be B. be business indicators ; therefore they are particularly easy to measure. In addition, there are the pre-economic goals, i.e. goals that must be met in order to be able to achieve the aforementioned goals at all, for example goals such as "win new customers", "win back lost customers" etc.

At the forefront of these goals are profit and liquidity , as these are generally seen as imperative for the existence of commercial enterprises. You can continue to orientate yourself on many different success parameters: productivity , profitability , return on sales and return on investment . Further formal goals are market power , secure jobs , a good working atmosphere , a positive image and preservation of the environment .

Tangible goals or performance targets are those targets that focus on the concrete actions of operation or a public body relating to the provision of services, ie on the type, quantity, quality, location and time to be producing goods or services to be provided services .

The objective objectives are mostly based on the formal objectives:

  • Provision of services to meet needs (overall objective)
  • Manufacture of certain products in a certain quality
  • Application of a specific manufacturing process
  • Production of a certain quantity

Social goals, human goals, ecological goals describe the desired behavior towards internal and external interest groups (employees, suppliers, customers, the state, the public). Since this content dimension is not directly necessary for the economic survival of a company or does not generate immediate success, it is often viewed as secondary. However, some components are also specified by laws, such as the regulation of working hours or compliance with environmental protection requirements.

Business ethics is also partly concerned with this .

In contrast to the formal goals, there are the factual goals, the sub- goals in order to achieve the formal goal, for example the sale of a certain amount of products.

Some authors limit themselves to a division into factual and formal goals.

Temporal dimension

The focus here is on the period for which the goal should apply or a point in time by which a goal should be achieved. The classic division is made into short, medium and long-term goals; which are also known as operational, tactical and strategic goals. Short-term often refers to a period of one financial year or less; in the medium term, more likely to be two or three years. Long-term planning takes place from 3 or 5 years.


The target extent describes the extent to which a certain goal is to be achieved. It therefore makes a significant contribution to quantification, which is expressed in the degree of target achievement .

The following should be mentioned as dimensions: extremization , satisfication and fixation.

Target relationships

Abstract illustration of target relationships.

Target relationships are the relationships between several company goals. The target relationships can be described in four ways.

  • complementary goals

Complementary means complementary ; This is the ideal relationship in which goals can be related to each other, because by reaching or pursuing one goal, the other is automatically achieved or favored - you kill two birds with one stone, so to speak (see also synergy effect ). Example: reduce scrap, reduce costs

  • competing goals

Goals that are in competition with one another cannot be pursued at the same time. If you get closer to one, you automatically move away from the other.

  • indifferent / neutral goals

In today's highly networked, globalized world, there are hardly any corporate goals that can be pursued completely independently of one another. This means that the neutral target relationship is practically non-existent in reality. A possible example would be the quality of working conditions and the speed of capital turnover .

  • antinome goals

Goals that completely exclude the fulfillment of one or more other goals. A z. B. A higher level of awareness of a company as a goal is clearly excluded when the advertising budget of the same company is saved.

The target relationships can be analyzed and processed using a target relationship matrix .

Target structures

Target pyramid, sorted in ascending order according to maturity and abstractness.

The systemic complexity increases significantly, particularly in large companies (e.g. global corporations ). This usually leads to non-negligible conflicting goals, so that certain goals cannot be pursued at all or cannot be pursued to the optimum extent. In these cases it can be necessary and useful to establish a target hierarchy .

For illustration purposes, representations in pyramid form are usually chosen.

On the one hand, goals can be sorted according to their importance in a goal pyramid (goal A is more important than goal B).

On the other hand, goal-means hierarchies can also be set up. For example: gain (overall objective), cost reduction (Point), revenue maximization (Point), productivity increase (Target), efficiency increase (Target). In this type of hierarchy, not only the priority of the individual goals is mapped, but overarching goals are further concretized through intermediate goals and sub-goals and thus initial instructions for action are given.


  • Edmund Heinen : The company's target system. Basics of business decisions. Gabler, Wiesbaden 1966.
  • Günther Ortmann: Company goals as ideology. 1976, ISBN 3-462-01138-3 .
  • Peter Kupsch: Company goals . (= UTB book 861). ISBN 3-437-40069-X .
  • Uwe Eisenbeis: Goals, target systems and target configurations of media companies: A contribution to the real theory of media companies. 1st edition. Hampp, Mering 2007, ISBN 978-3-86618-186-1 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Harald Hungenberg / Torsten Wulf: Fundamentals of corporate management. 2nd Edition. Springer, 2006, p. 49, ISBN 3-540-28776-0
  2. a b Definition: Company goals - Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon
  3. Thomas Hutzschenreuter, General Business Administration , 2009, p. 49
  4. Thomas Hutzschenreuter, General Business Administration , 2009, p. 50
  5. Günter Wöhe / Ulrich Döring , Introduction to General Business Administration , 25th edition, 2013, p. 30
  6. Mirko Waniczek / Raoul Ruthner / Andreas Feichter, corporate planning and control , 2016, p. 14
  7. Klaus Brockhoff: Business Administration in Science and History: A Sketch. 1st edition. Gabler, 2008, ISBN 978-3-8349-1276-3 , p. 197.
  8. Wolfgang Weber / Rüdiger Kabst: Introduction to business administration. Gabler, 2006, ISBN 3-409-63011-2 , p. 154.
  9. Wolfgang Domschke / Armin Scholl: Basics of business administration. 3. Edition. Springer, 2005, ISBN 3-540-25047-6 , p. 8.
  10. Armin Töpfer: Business Administration: Application and process-oriented basics. 2nd Edition. Springer, ISBN 3-540-49394-8 , p. 426.
  11. ^ Ingrid and Peter Gerstbach: Basic knowledge of business analysis. Chapter 4.3 (company goals) and 5.6 (keeping track of things). Redline Publishing House, Munich 2015.
  12. ^ Joachim Paul: Introduction to General Business Administration: With examples and case studies. 1st edition. Gabler, 2006, ISBN 3-8349-0336-1 , p. 93.
  13. ^ Jörn-Axel Meyer: Strategies of small and medium-sized companies. In: Yearbook of SME Research and Practice 2010. Josef Eul Verlag, 2010.
  14. ^ H. Meffert, M. Bruhn: Service Marketing. Basics - Concepts - Methods. 6th edition. Wiesbaden 2009.
  15. Target hierarchy - definition in the Galber Wirtschaftslexikon