Sunday, May 29, 2016

Goals - what is the point?

Like my previous comments on Performance Reviews, I also dislike the goal setting that follows. Not because I am an underachiever, if anything I have always been an overachiever. But I dislike the artificial nature of the process. Ultimately, I see goal setting, at least in the context of work, as a manager deciding what he/she wants you to achieve, then manipulating you into thinking these are your goals and holding your feet to the fire until they are achieved. So why not just cut out the time wasting and let the manager set the goals? That is what will happen.

Certainly if we select goals that suit us, but do not suit our manager, those will not be the goals we eventually work towards, or if we do, we won't actually get much credit for reaching or surpassing them.

I am a planner, I am probably a little OCD, see this blog entry, I write lists, I write lists of lists, So why do I dislike writing goals? I don't, as I said I dislike the process in the workplace. I already have goals. I have had the same set of goals throughout my life, and they apply equally to all areas of my life.

  1. Learn from my mistakes
  2. Do better - keep improving ( similar to 1. but extending it )
  3. Look for the silver lining
  4. Do unto others...
  5. Win the lottery 
Number 5. is probably more a team goal and irrelevant to work - except that if I were to win the lottery I would most definitely retire from work. Goal # 6 achieved! Of course, achieving these goals is not going to do anything to help me climb the ladder at work, however with # 6 I would be dismounting the ladder anyway.

Each year, having been subjected to the aforementioned dreaded annual review, where our artificial goals from last year are dragged out to either applaud or denigrate us - either way we get graded on those goals.

Then there are SMART goals. Of course, I would argue that my goals are very smart, but the purpose of goals in a work environment are to hold you accountable, and to keep you focused and going in the right direction. I would like to say we are dealing with adults here, surely we can be trusted to hold ourselves accountable and stay focused, but sadly I know that this is not necessarily true. I have worked with many people who not only need goals, they need constant supervision - in fact some should never have been hired in the first place.

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Realistic/Relevant, and Time-bound) goals are described well on this website.

What exactly do you expect to accomplish?
How will you know when it has been achieved?
Is it consistent with the department / company goals?
Is it possible and affordable?
How long will it take?

One of the many issues I have with goal setting is that in my experience, the company direction changes and what might have been a relevant goal no longer applies and is never revisited, or, the department leadership changes and a goals that were agreed upon by one manager will not necessarily impress the successor, then any effort to achieve them is also wasted. I have yet to see how any goal has actually improved the performance of those employees who might be considered to need them, in my opinion, if they are not already performing to standard, they never will, at least not without a lot of supervision and constant driving. Cynical maybe, but remember, I have been around for some time (see this blog entry). Employees who are self driven really don't need external goals.

Perhaps companies would be better off checking on the Zodiac Signs before hiring and while doing performance reviews? If you look at the description of a Virgo's (me) characteristics, you would probably conclude that I don't need much goal setting to get the job done right, or at least to the best of my ability. Also I am a communicator, probably to a fault, but I can guarantee that my manager is in no doubt as to what I am doing and how I feel about it and is given plenty of opportunity to correct my course should it be needed.
"Virgo exists in the mind, everything is inside. To the world, Virgo presents a calm and collected exterior but on the inside, nervous uncontrolled intensity in the mind, trying to figure things out, how to improve everything, analyzing and thinking. Virgo can tire itself out without even moving! Virgo has a constant drive to improve and perfect, this can lead to extreme pickiness and finickiest. They are pure, their motives are honest never malicious and they want to accomplish something."

On the other hand, perhaps not, if my performance, remuneration and possible advancement where decided by a cards or astrology, while the process might be more enjoyable, the outcome might not.

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