Do Targets Work or Not?

In summary:

I hope the last two posts have demonstrated admirably that:

  1. Targets work
  2. Targets don’t work

I also trust that is nice and clear.

So which is it?

The problem isn’t the target, it’s the culture.

Do you have a culture that accepts that failure is inevitable when you are pushing the boundaries? Does your culture treat failure as an opportunity to learn? If so, targets and goals will work beautifully.  To use a rather hackneyed quote:

If you shoot for the stars, you’ll at least hit the moon ~ T. Harv Eker

But if you have a culture where failure is punished and blame is ubiquitous then targets are toxic.

  • People will lie
  • People will cheat
  • People will fight

And not much else will happen.

The question isn’t “Do targets work?”

The question is do you have a culture that is strong enough to support them?  Or to put it less prosaically:

Culture eats strategy for breakfast ~ Peter Drucker

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Comments

  1. Hello James,

    This discussion got me thinking about medicine.
    One takes medicine to deal with some disease in order to get better.
    By taking the medicine one ALWAYS introduces side effects. The only question is what they will be for a particular person, the size of the impact, and when the impact will show up.
    When one takes medicine it is important to read the instruction and warnings that come with it. Why? Because if you are of a certain disposition or are taking certain medicines then the side effects can be very harmful indeed.

    Put differently, the nature of reality is relationship / interconnection. So it is not the particular attributes of this or that which matter. Often it is how this or that fits into the context / system / ecology that really matters.

    Which is my way of saying that the ONLY honest answer to any significant question is: “Future cannot be predicted. It depends on x, y, z. The likely outcomes are A, B, C..” But who would get a listening if that is what they turned up with. You cannot be a guru on this basis. Instead you have to turn up with definite statements – the iron laws of business. And then the folks who pay the bills listen.

    Incidentally, there is a great book worth dipping into if you can make the time: The Halo Effect. The author deconstructs a bunch of business and management theory/practice.

  2. I will have a look Maz, thanks very much for the tip

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