By Manuel “Manny” Rodriguez, M.S., BCBA, Bueno Ventures, OBM Alliance, 305 Publishing
Goal Setting, not a novel concept by any stretch. In fact, there even exists a management theorem called “Goal Setting Theory” (Locke and Latham, 2006) describing goal setting as the relationship between goals and its effects. The theorem continues with specific points of emphasis such as clarity of the goals, challenging yet attainable goals, feedback must be provided on goal attainment, and group goal setting is as important as individual goal setting.
So why is goal setting so difficult for many organizations? In a word – confusion.
Many managers who are looking to set a goal for their team starts with some basics – past performance, expectations of upper management, and the old “add 10%.” Now, the challenge with goal setting is twofold: the goal itself, and setting the goal.
THE GOAL ITSELF
A goal is a preset or specified level of performance to be attained. Good goals are SMART Goals (Geller, 2003) - Specific - Motivational - Achievable - Relevant – and Trackable. After defining the goal, managers take great care to ensure they meet the SMART criteria. Testing the criteria requires feedback from those who are affected by the goals and those who influence the goals.
Goal setting is the process in which the goal is set. It is advisable for the manager to gather input from stakeholders who are affected by the goal – the very employees doing the work. Although upper management definitely plays a role in setting the goal, the manager should take great care in how goals set affect the employees who are then held accountable to the goal.
Goal setting also requires an understanding of ensuring the goal is challenging yet attainable, and higher than (or toward the higher end of) typical performance, but at a point where it’ll be reached at least occasionally. It is also always better to start too low, and then increase it as you go, versus too high and never accomplish it.
There is much written on the subject of goal setting, and for people who work in organizations, it’s a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual topic. Yet, goals and goals settings are only part of the equation of a system to managing and positively influencing human performance. Without goals and goal setting however, the workplace may seem rather dull.
Geller, E.S. (2003). Should organizational behavior management expand its content? Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 22(2), 13-30, DOI: 10.1300/J075v22n02_03
Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P. (2006). New directions in goal-setting theory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(5), 265-268.