Good vs Bad Goal Setting

March 20, 2013

The worst kind of goal setting is no goal setting.  Processes get detached from objectives.  No one knows why they’re doing what they’re doing.  No one knows if they’re making progress.  No one feels inspired.  Over time, a descent into lethargy and failure ensues.  No goals = no meaningful direction.

Only slightly better than no goal setting is bad goal setting.  This is when people—having gotten the memo that no goal setting is wrong—set  haphazard and unthoughtful goals so that they can’t be accused of not having them.  I call this “slapping a number on things.”  Is it the right number?  How did it get chosen? Will it motivate you?  Will it motivate others?  Will you guide action on a daily, weekly, monthly basis?  Will you even remember you set it in 6 months?  In bad goal setting the answer to these questions is often; I don’t know, I hadn’t thought about it that much. Bad goals also = no meaningful direction.  Everyone knows they’re arbitrary.

Good goal setting starts with putting a ideas on the table, getting input, tightening, forming, and crafting them until they feel right.  It shouldn’t take forever, but it shouldn’t be rushed. People need to feel buy-in.  The goals need to be specific, measurable, motivating, and even inspiring. They need to be documented and communicated in ways that allow people to not only understand the goal, but also how it was reached.  When these things are done well, you end up with an invaluable management tool.  Good goals drive strategy, creativity, new ideas.  They push people to think and behave differently in order to pursue them.  They make people want to hold each other accountable and not shy away from tough conversations.

Good goals create a focused and meaningful game within which people can figure out how to win.  People love winning at meaningful things.

What process do you use to set good goals?