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Monday, March 02, 2009

When Goal Setting Goes Bad

Harvard Business professor Max H. Bazerman and colleagues explored the hidden cost when stretch goals are misguided in the HBS article "When Goal Setting Goes Bad".

Key findings:

  • Used wisely, goals can inspire employees and improve performance.
  • But goal setting must be prescribed in doses, not as a standard remedy to increase productivity.
  • When employees care exclusively about reaching a goal, and bad things can happen if they fail, cheating goes up.
  • Goals are appropriate when you know exactly what behaviors you want, you aren't concerned about secondary behaviors, and unethical behavior is not a big risk.

Full working paper, "Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting" can be downloaded here.

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