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Setting Good Goals

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Goal setting is such a fundamental part of management, that we sometimes forget what it is for.  It has become embedded into formal processes that can distance us from what we are doing and turn good management practices into form-filling, box-ticking routines; devoid of any real meaning or purpose.

So let’s be explicit about what goal setting is for

We set goals for others so that they will know when they have achieved what we want.  We set goals for ourselves, for the same reason.  Goal setting is therefore about:

  • Giving a clear direction and reason for work
  • Giving an equally clear indication of when to stop
  • Being explicit about what triggers the reward – which may only need to be a thank-you
  • Setting a standard of achievement, on the route to mastery
  • Motivating people to achieve what is needed

SMART Goals

There are a lot of formulations of SMART goals – most typically:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

All of these are designed to remind users that good goals are explicit about what is expected, balance challenge with realism, are rooted in what is important, and have a time-scale attached.

What, Why, When, What if?

Good goals need to answer these four questions:

  1. What do you expect of me; precisely?  I need to know what you want in enough detail to be able to meet your expectations.
  2. Why are you asking it of me?  Without a sense of valuable purpose, I shan’t be motivated.
  3. When do you need it by?  So that I can schedule the work into my diary and assign it the right priority.
  4. What if things don’t go according to plan?  What resources can I draw upon, what help will you offer, what compromises are appropriate and what are not acceptable, what authority do I have to make decisions?

The key, however, to good goals is that they must be agreed between you, the manager, and the person for whom you are setting the goals.  The best way to get the commitment you need is to express the goals clearly, put them in writing and then to look your colleague in the eye, and ask: ‘do you accept this goal?’

When goal-setting becomes a formal process it loses its power.  Make good goal-setting an everyday routine – part of your day-to-day management of your team and of each individual.  Formal, annual or quarterly goal setting will then feel easy – it will set the strategic context for your day-to-day management.

Further Reading 

The Appraisals Pocketbook

The Motivation Pocketbook

Performance Management Pocketbook

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Feedback Welcome

Welcome to the Management Pocketblog.

This is a blog dedicated to all things management and we want it to reflect the values and style of the management pocketbooks series.  You can read more about the blog at the ‘New Readers’ tab.

What Feedback do you give?

9781906610128 The newly published Feedback Pocketbook opens with a shocking statistic:  33% of British employees consider they rarely or never get feedback on their performance.  If you have an equivalent statistic for any other country, please do let us know in the comments section, below.

So let’s assume that this represents around a third of British managers, failing to offer feedback – at least in a form that it is recognised.  Are you one of them?

Wasted opportunity

Feedback helps us develop and is arguably the most valuable performance-enhancing tool that managers have.  So if you are not giving great feedback, you are losing a noticeable slice of potential performance.  It doesn’t take a big performance loss, when multiplied across all  of a manager’s team, to account for the difference between a profitable and failing business, or a successful or collapsing service.

How big could that difference be?

Bandura and Cervone

In the early 1980s, Albert Bandura and Daniel Cervone conducted experiments with students at Stanford University, on a cycling ergo meter.  They measured the performance of eighty cyclists and then split them into four groups, balanced for gender and ability:

  1. Group A
    were set goals for performance improvement
  2. Group B
    were given no goals, but feedback on their performance
  3. Group C
    got both performance goals and feedback
  4. Group D
    were a control group and got neither goals nor feedback

At the end of a training period, Bandura and Cervone found that the twenty cyclists who had received both clear performance goals and feedback had improved their performance to a higher degree (by a factor of more than 2) than any other group.  Not surprisingly, the control group (D) showed least improvement.  Surprisingly, however, the control group only improved a little less than groups A and B.

Bandura&Cervone

Goal Setting and Feedback are both vital to great performance

So here’s the deal

Our goal

… is to engage in a dialogue with Management Pocketbook readers and anyone else interested in management.  Over the next six months, we’d like to get to at least 100 readers a week, and we want to get comments on most of our posts.

Your feedback

… is more than welcome.  Let us know what you think of our blogs and our books, and contribute your ideas to supplement ours.  Give us information and ideas, and tell us what you want.

Subscribe to this blog, so you don’t miss any of our posts – we look forward to the conversation.

Reference:
Self-Evaluative and Self-Efficacy Mechanisms Governing the Motivational Effects of Goal Systems,
Albert Bandura and Daniel Cervone,
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1983,
Vol 45, No. 5, 1017-1028

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