Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting

Lisa D. Ordonez, Maurice E. Schweitzer, Adam D. Galinsky, Max H. Bazerman, Harvard Business School, Mar 03, 2009
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This is an excellent paper and required reading especially for those inclined to confuse the measurement with the method. Goal-setting, the gold standard in business methodology, is fraught with destructive side-effects. Among them:
- too specific - "goals can focus attention so narrowly that people overlook other important features of a task"
- narrow goals "may cause people to ignore important dimensions of performance that are not specified by the goal setting system."
- too many goals - "Goals that are easier to achieve and measure (such as quantity) may be given more attention than other goals (such as quality)"
- inappropriate time horizon "[may] prompt managers to engage in myopic, short-term behavior that harms the organization in the long run"
- risk taking - "people motivated by specific, challenging goals adopt riskier strategies and choose riskier gambles"
- unethical behaviour - by taking inappropriate measures to meet goals, or by misrepresenting statements of achievement
- disillusionment - "because perceptions of self-efficacy are a key predictor of task engagement, commitment, and effort"
Via Will Thalheimer.
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