Thursday, July 04, 2013

Setting Goals Can Easily Backfire

Response to: Goal-Setting is as Easy as 1+3

Aligning actions with strategic goals is key. And frankly this rarely happens. It is great when it does but it takes a much more systemic approach than just goal setting. Without a systemic focus on evidence based management goals often end up having people just focus on numerical targets whatever that results in for the rest of the business:

  The Trouble with Incentives: They Work
  Deming on the problems with targets or goals
  “I achieved my goal by not my aim. That happens a lot, we honestly translate aims to goals. And then we do stupid things in the name of the goal get it the way of the aim. We forget the aim sometimes and put the goal in its place.” - nice story (webcast) from Mike Tveite

It doesn't have to do so. It just does, quite frequently in many organizations. A culture that understands variation, thinks systemically and uses evidence based systemic measures of progress helps make sure the dangers are avoided. But that understanding is missing in most places that use goals.

Without that you should spend at least as much time worrying about the dangers the goals you are setting will pose and put in counter-measures to try and deal with them as you do on the rest of the effort around goals.

How to improve results: good process improvement practices.

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