Goal setting – don’t target mediocrity

goals - resetIt’s that time of year when performance objectives are reviewed at the half-way point through the year. It’s a frustrating time for a number of reasons. Most people have too many objectives and they are shoehorned into a corporate structure driven by high level strategic objectives. That makes them less relevant than they should be to the real jobs being performed. Secondly, the objectives are typically set up to target mediocrity. When goal setting for your team, be challenging.


Alignment to strategy

Let’s deal with the easy one first. I’m not saying that objectives shouldn’t be aligned to the corporate strategy but I am saying the approach to achieving that is the wrong way round. You should start with the job being undertaken first. Identify the specific objectives that need to be met to ensure that role is performed to the standard the organisation requires to meet it’s corporate objectives. It’s then a simple exercise to tick back to which corporate objective(s) the job objectives support. To these objectives you then need to add the personal development objectives of the employee.

It’s important to note that not every job will have a relevance or connection to every corporate objective. For example if you are in Finance preparing the statutory accounts any link to customer service is at best tenuous. Too many objectives are created to fit a mould instead of being related to the actual job in hand.  That leads to employees disengaging with the process and not taking not seriously.


Objective setting

This is the biggest problem area. Most people in the corporate world are taught that objectives must be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

I don’t have a problem with S, M and T, but achievable and realistic? That’s where mediocrity sets in. It sets people up to underachieve. As a counter I often hear people say that they have set stretch targets – still achievable and realistic, but designed to make people work a little harder. I don’t want people to work a little harder, I want them to work smarter – much smarter. I want them to think differently and challenge what they do and how they do it. You see, if you always do what you’ve always done, even if you do it a little harder you’ll still always get what you’ve always got.

Be outrageous

I want my teams to achieve a lot more. To do that we need to approach things differently. We need to try things, challenge the norm and innovate. To encourage people to do that I like to set big, challenging goals that can’t possibly be achieved by just working harder.

By all means stick with SMART goals, but make the A Aspirational and the R Relevant. Then make the objective  BHA – Big and Hairy Arsed!

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One comment on “Goal setting – don’t target mediocrity
  1. basicsben456 says:

    This is a really interesting idea. I was just reading about Google moonshots this morning and this is a pretty similar idea. If it works for Google, it’s got to be worth giving it a go!

    It would be great to read some examples of when you’ve done this though and it’s worked out for you. Another post maybe?

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