Goal-Directed Behaviour and Target-Setting: A New Way Forward

Advocates and critics of target-setting in the workplace seem unable to reach beyond their well-entrenched battle lines. Advocates point to what they see as demonstrable advantages, while critics point to what they see as demonstrable disadvantages. Academic literature on this topic is currently mired in controversy. Neither side seems capable of envisaging a better way forward.

We presented a paper on this important topic to the PMA Symposium in 2010 (since published in Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 15, No. 3, 2011). It can be downloaded at 10-09-28 PMA Symposium Paper v2.6.

Target-setting paper published in Measuring Business Excellence

The advocates and critics of target-setting seem unable to agree on any common ground.

On the one hand, there is incontrovertible evidence of the damaging effects of arbitrary numerical target-setting. Yet, on the other hand, there is a significant body of academic evidence supporting the benefits of goal-directed behaviour.

We have developed a paper showing how these fundamental contradictions can be resolved by taking into account seven important points:

(1) Understanding the typology of targets;

(2) Clarifying the terminology used;

(3) Distinguishing between differing uses of measures;

(4) Adopting a systemic perspective;

(5) Acknowledging the unknown and unknowable;

(6) Charting performance; and

(7) Differentiating managerial time spans of attention and added value from front line to boardroom.

By adopting the approach we propose, it is possible to secure all the benefits of goal-directed behaviour with none of the problems typically associated with target-setting.

An updated version of our draft target-setting paper (as published by Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 15, No. 3, 2011) is now available at PMA Symposium Target-Setting Paper v1.4.