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Ten Questions to Ask Before Setting Goals

9th Jan, 2015

coaching girl on bikeLatest research suggests that goal setting needs to be thought through and handled with care if it is not to become a problem. Below is a summary of the findings. I am sure you will be able to think of instances where goal setting has been counter productive in your own experience and/or when looking at what happened during the financial crisis and/or the problems governments have in setting goals. If you are setting goals right now be sure to ask these ten questions…



Ten Questions to ask before setting goals (Ordonez et al, 2009)

Questions to ask before setting goals:Why is this important to ask?Possible Solutions:
Are the goals too specific?Narrow goals can blind people to important aspects of a problem.Be sure that goals are comprehensive and cover all aspects. For example both quantity and quality.
Are the goals too challenging?What will happen if goals are not met? What else will be evaluated? Will failure harm motivation and self-esteem?Provide development plans to ensure the right skills are available. Take a holistic view to evaluation.
Who sets the goals?People are more committed to goals they help set.Provide transparency in the goal setting process.
Is the time horizon appropriate?Short term goals may harm long term performance.Integrate long term and short term goals.
How might goals influence risk taking?The threat of not reaching a goal may induce risk taking.Provide clear boundaries on acceptable risk.
How might goals motivate unethical behaviour?Goals narrow focus. Some employees may rationalise their unethical behaviour as subservient to the goalProvide clear standards at the same time as providing goals.
How will goals influence organisational culture?Individual goals may harm cooperation and corrode organisational culture.If co-operation is essential consider setting team based goals. Think about the message that a goal sends.
Will individuals still be internally driven?Goal setting can harm intrinsic motivation.If intrinsic motivation is high be wary of setting specific goals.
Is a performance goal appropriate or would a goal to learn or achieve competency be better?By focussing on performance goals, employees may fail to search for better strategies and fail to learn.In complex, changing environments, learning goals may be more effective than performance goals

Colin Graves