As regular readers of Getting to Excellent already know, I think setting goals is tremendously important. Goals improve performance by focusing the mind on a particular outcome, help to remove distractions, and provide motivation to achieve something. So as a tool to manage ourselves, and other people, they are kind of handy.
But they are not simple little beasts - far from it.
A goal that is too easy encourages complacency, and might even result in something not getting done at all, or taking too long to do.
A goal that is too difficult becomes demotivating because you don’t/can’t achieve it, and either blame yourself for poor performance, or whoever encouraged you to try for the goal. Either way you come away dispirited and sure that “setting goals doesn’t work”.
What’s wrong in both cases is that not enough thought and data went into setting the goal. After all, what you are aiming for is the best performance possible from yourself or someone else. Not a sorry wreck at the end of the exercise.
Figuring out current performance, comparing performance of others of similar ability, and figuring out what a realistic improvement could be, are all ingredients to a realistic goal. The answer you get might not be the nice round number you first thought of, but it is likely to produce better results. Yes, it will have taken a little longer to arrive at, but it will also encourage a higher level of commitment in whoever is doing the work.
I’m forever guilty of setting unrealistic goals with my running, whereas a little more thought might help motivate me, rather than demotivate me. The same goes for sales targets, marketing objectives, delivering projects, passing exams etc. etc. A touch more realism, and a touch less optimism, might produce much better results in all areas. True of all things in life really.