Setting Goals: A Good Idea?

Could setting goals be detrimental to achieving our targets? Yes, say a number of “management scholars” researching the issue, but only because they may lead to “bursts of intense effort in the short term” or be too narrow and poorly defined.

The comprehensive article looking at their work has some interesting anecdotes and some good advice for those who consistently stumble when it comes to setting and keeping goals.

What’s often required is a “learning goal” – one where someone pledges to come up with, for example, five approaches to a thorny problem – rather than a performance goal that assumes that the problem will automatically be solved. […]

Rather than reflexively relying on goals, argues Max Bazerman, a Harvard Business School professor and the fourth coauthor of Goals Gone Wild [pdf], we might also be better off creating workplaces and schools that foster our own inherent interest in the work. “There are lots of organizations where people want to do well, and they don’t need those goals,” he says.