Breakthrough objectives are targets that can only be achieved with significant changes to the way the company operates. A company cannot achieve them by doing business as usual. Breakthrough objectives often cascade down from an aggressive strategic plan.
Sometimes a breakthrough objective is established based on an opportunity. For example, a new vice-president with previous Lean experience may be set an aggressive goal to dramatically reduce finished goods inventory and do more make-to-order production.
In other cases, breakthrough objectives are based on need. A marketing team may determine that a product line needs a dramatic reduction in lead time to remain competitive in a changing market. The manufacturing team might need to learn to reduce its batch sizes to get the required level of responsiveness.
In either case, the breakthrough objective should have a specific number associated with it. Breakthrough objectives frequently have a long timeline associated with them. In some cases, they may take a number of years to achieve.