Goal setting in business… where did it all go wrong?

In the Wikipedia entry for goal setting (in business) you’ll see the following:

  1. Goals focus attention towards goal-relevant activities and away from goal-irrelevant activities.
  2. Goals serve as an energizer; higher goals induce greater effort while low goals induce lesser effort.
  3. Goals affect persistence; constraints with regard to resources affect work pace.
  4. Goals activate cognitive knowledge and strategies that help employees cope with the situation at hand.

Here’s an alternative view of how goals work in organisations, that have resulted in them having quite the opposite effect to the development of this tool in the first place:

  1. Goals focus attention towards the fact that they’ve been set for you and have been set “wrongly” and that you wouldn’t have set that goal for yourself and that the goal has been imposed and that goal has to be hit at all costs.
  2. Goals serve as a de-energiser because they’re set for you and you feel no ownership over them and you fear them being set because there is now a stick with which you will be beaten if you don’t hit that goal.
  3. Goals affect persistence – as goals are set for people and done unto them, then their attitude towards them is usually one of helplessness, so this seldom promotes an obsessive drive to pool every resource to see if the goal can be reached.
  4. Goals activate cognitive knowledge and strategies that help employees explain to themselves why the goals are impossible to achieve and that there has been very little taking into account of the reality of the current performance climate when setting these goals.

If you recognise any of the four points above, then come and have a chat with us about the origins of goal setting and how you can reclaim the power of goal setting by using the tool in the way that it was originally intended to be used.