Goal setting, types of goals, advantages, characteristics, barriers, consistency of goal setting

“A goal is defined as a target. A dream is an action with a purpose.” Setting goal is a universal concept. Whether be an individual, an organization or a government, they have a goal.

Setting and meeting goals create a positive energy and motivate you to keep going even when obstacles arise. Goals not only help you to continue to be motivated and that creates momentum.

Goals help you focus your attention on your purpose and make it your dominant aspiration. They help you know where you are going. And as philosopher poet Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.”

Types of goals

Goals can be longer than five years but then they become a purpose of life. Goals are more easily achieved if they are broken into small ones.

Short-term goal: up to one year

Mid-term goal: one to three years

Long-term goal: up to five years

Campbell suggests setting several different types if goals:

Long-range goals are concerned with the kind of life you want to live with regard to your career, marriage and life style. It is wise to keep these goals broad and flexible.

Medium-range goals cover the next five years or so and include the type of education you are seeking or the next step in your career or family life. You have more control over these goals. So you can tell how well you are progressing toward them and modify them accordingly.

Short-range goals apply from the next month or so up to one year from now. You can set these goals quite realistically and should try hard to achieve them.

Mini-goals cover anything from one day to a month. You have a lot of control over these goals and should make them specific.

Micro-goals cover the next 15 minutes to few hours. Realistically these are the only goals you have direct control over.

Characteristics of sound goals

Goals must be specific: most of the individuals have goals that are usually stated in too general terms. The goals must be both clear-cut and specific. For example: “I would lose weight”. This is wishful thinking. It becomes a goal when I pin myself down to “I wish to lose 5kg in 90 days”.

Goals must be measurable: goals should not only be specific but measurable. Such measurable goals do serve as a basis for comparing actual performance indicator. For example; increasing market share is by 10% during a year.

Goals must be challenging but realistic: goals that are unrealistic are likely to be ineffective because sooner or later employees will come to realize that they are unattainable. On the contrary, goals which call for the best efforts of all employees for their accomplishment are challenging but realistic. These goals are undoubtedly effective means of motivating people.

Goals have to be time specific: each goal will have to be accomplished within a time-period. Goals may be set on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly basis. For example, achieving 10% increase in sales in six months, is time specific.

Goals should focus on results not on activities: activities are means to achieve goals. For example, the goal of an organization may be to raise employee productivity by 4%, in 2010 and the means to achieve this may be on-the-job training for production workers.

Goals must be set by the people responsible for accomplishing them, whenever possible: if goals are set by those who are responsible for accomplishing them, it is very easy to obtain commitment to goals. It is because everyone responsible for goal setting will consider his own strength and weakness in accomplishing such goals.

Advantages of goal setting

  • Goal setting helps you plan everyday tasks
  • It gives direction and purpose
  • It makes decision making easy
  • It helps to decide on priorities
  • It encourages hard work
  • It motivates you
  • It inspires followers
  • It builds confidence
  • It reduces stress
  • It gives you positive attitude
  • It makes evaluation possible
  • It gives real meaning to your activities

Barriers to effective goal setting

Various factors create barriers to effective goal setting. Some such factors are associated with the goals themselves and other with the process of goal setting.

Inappropriate goals

There are various forms of inappropriate goals. For example, driving a competitor out of business is by adapting unethical practices; bribing government officials to obtain a favor such as a trade or import license and violating antipollution regulations.

Inappropriate goals may arise from the reversal of a cause-and-effect relationship or what may be called a means-end inversion. In this situation, the means added to obtain an end (or goal) become the end itself.

Unattainable goals

The second major obstacle to the goal setting process is attainable goals – goals which cannot be accomplished under the existing circumstances. Goals may be challenging in nature but within the reach of the organization. It is important to note that important to most business successes are the result of a long-term steady application of the organization’s resources, via good strategic and action planning, to attainable goals.

Over-emphasis on quantitative or qualitative goals

Another barrier to goal setting is placing too much emphasis on either quantitative or qualitative goals. Some goals, especially those relating to financial considerations, are by nature quantifiable, objective and verifiable. Others such as employee satisfaction are difficult to quantify. So, proper balance has to be maintained between these two types of goals. In other words, both kinds of goals should be taken into consideration while developing goals and in evaluating the results.

Improper reward systems

At times, an improper reward system acts as a barrier to the goal-setting process. For various reasons people may be rewarded for poor goal-setting and they may go unrewarded or even be punished for proper goal setting. Further in some settings, people may be rewarded for achieving goals that are counterproductive to the organization’s intent.

Making goal setting effective

Understanding the purpose of goals

The best way to facilitate the goal-setting process is to make sure that they understand the two main purposes of goals. The first is to provide a target to shoot for. The second is to establish the framework around which other planning activities develop. As a framework, goals define where the individual is expected to beat various lines in the future and they suggest ways of getting there.

Standing objectives properly

Another way of improving the goal-setting process is to make sure that objectives are properly stated. To the extent possible, objectives should be specific, concise and time-related.

Specificity: it is necessary that objectives identify the specific outcome being sought. For example, raising labor productivity by 3% is a more specific objective than increasing productivity.

Consciousness: although an objective may include all relevant variables, it should be concise. For example, raising market share is by 10 to 12% in 2010 instead of just increasing or expanding a company’s market penetration.

The time factor: finally, a good objective should specify relevant time periods. For different types of goals – short, intermediate and long-run goals, the time involved should be pinpointed in the goal itself.

Goal consistency

Thirdly, for improving the goal setting process, it is absolutely essential to ensure that the goals are consistent both horizontally and vertically. There should not be any conflict among various other goals.

Goal acceptance and commitment

A high level of acceptance and commitment on the part of the individual is absolutely essential for meeting the organization’s goals. People are unlikely to work whole-heartedly toward attaining any goal that they do not accept or are not committed to.

Effective reward system

Perhaps the best way to enhance the effectiveness of goal setting is to integrate the goals with the organization’s reward systems. People in organizations should be rewarded first for effective goal setting and then for successful goal attainment. At the same time they should be assured that failure to attain a goal will not lead to punishment. This is due to the fact that failure is often due to factors outside the manager’s control. Accordingly, the goal setting process should have both ‘diagnostic’ and an evaluative component.

Everyone’s life should have a mission. It is not appropriate that we wander like a drifting cloud carried by the direction of the wind. Young people, especially, should have a goal and direction. Just as a mariner is guided by the pole star, he/she should be guided by the goal. Each dream, each thought, each activity should be directed towards attaining that lofty goal.

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