Monday, July 02, 2007

Objectives again

I don’t normally respond to comments on my blog.  Most of them don’t actually require anything more to be said but on this occasion I thought I should respond.  And keeping to my one entry one comment policy I’ll take them both separately.

So, the question was: Am I changing my view on objectives?

And my answer is: It depends; in this case I’ll wait and see what happens.

I think it is worth knowing what you are aiming for.  I think setting your own objectives is worth while and can help improve your performance.  And I think they are a good way of communicating priorities to and from management.

I also think that if you are going to have explicit objectives it helps if they can be more objective than subjective.  So, the SMART rules make sense.  But… well, there are problems….

Not everything you want to aim for can be specific or measured.  Quite often we operate with ambiguity.  A lot of my work is ill defined, trying to make it better defined can be useful but it can also be counter productive because things will change.  I’m not really sure what my goal is or should be, I just kind of know the general direction.

There is also a problem with the achievable and realistic part of the rule; in a word setting realistic goals encouraged people to satisfice.  If your promotion, pay rise or bonus depends on meeting an objective then there will always be a tendency to aim slightly lower, for something that is more achievable.

As much as they can improve communication between management and workers they can also be the source of misunderstanding; when they are imposed on people, when management sets the objective and forgets about them for a year, or when management sets them and then abdicates all responsibility for helping someone meet them.

So I stick by my answer: it depends.  I’m in favour of objectives when they are used appropriately.

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