Goal Setting Inputs LO6812

Christian Giroux (lmccgir@lmc.ericsson.se)
Fri, 19 Apr 1996 14:01:14 -0400

Replying to LO6517 --

Valerio Pascotto was asking about facilitating a goal setting process.

In my experience, any process is good as long as all the concerned
people participate. What I find important however, is why the goals
are set. In most cases, they are "sold" by top management as a step
towards a vision, but in reality it is the minimum results expected
from a group or a person. I think any goal setting process will be
flawed if it's based on any of the two previous assumptions (which I'll
call the public and the private ones).

The reason I find the private one flawed is more obvious: it makes
the people's discretionnary effort out of management's reach. In
general, people will do as less as possible to reach the goal (which, I
agree, can be a whole lot if the goal is very lofty - another problem).
Once the goal is reached, little will be done to do better, to go

In the case of the public reason for goals, it gets flawed by private
reasons. Since the goals, in this point of view are steps towards a
vision, ball park figure is sufficient. But my experience shows me that
when these goals aren't met, well, too bad! In my view, there is no
definite plan to get to a vision so whether we actually meet the goal
is unimportant as long as we move towards the vision.

That where it gets interesting. Behaviorists have clearly demonstrated
that the best way to have people adopt new behaviors (move in a
direction, read towards a vision) is positive reinforcement. Goals
should be set to increase the number of occasions for positive
reinforcement (hence lofty goals are a problem). If they are not set
with that mindset, they tend to be coupled with negative consequences
(if you don't meet that goal you don't get your bonus, or you don't get
a good evalutation, or you get reprimanded...) and the performance of
the people is not maximized.

Since I've applied these with the people working with me, no matter
what was the process or how it was facilitated, when the people
understand the reason for goal setting - occasions for reinforcement,
people tend to agree rather quickly on what needs to be done (or how
much of it) and it tends to get done quicker. In a few occasions, we
had to review the goals upwards 5 or 6 times during the year - goals
we thought we balanced (not too lofty, not too easy) when we set them.

I hope this helps you, Valerio.


Christian Giroux


Christian Giroux <lmccgir@lmc.ericsson.se>

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