This is an excerpt from my new book, Organizational Psychology for Managers.
We talk about goals a great deal. Every January I receive numerous articles touting the benefits of setting goals, and assuring me that if I just set goals then everything will magically work out Just Fine ™. Iíve lost track of the number of times Iíve walked into a company and asked people, ďWhat are your goals?Ē only to receive blank looks in return. Occasionally, Iím told that the goal is to make money. At least they have an answer; itís not a very good answer, but itís a starting point for discussion.
Letís start by recognizing that making money is not a goal. Itís not even an outcome. Making money is a form of feedback: itís one of several measures that can tell you if your strategies are working and your company is producing valuable goods or services. Focusing on the measurement instead of on the goals and approaches that enable you to make money leads to poor strategy and short-term optimization at the expense of long-term growth. Thatís not to say that making money isnít important: for many organizations and individuals it is a vital component of continuing to do what you want to be doing. Itís merely not the overall goal and, as weíve already discussed, itís also a terrible way to produce long-term motivation.
What about those New Yearís resolutions that everyone talks about at the beginning of the year? Sadly, those are not goals either. They are, at best, good intentions. The problem is, an intention is not a goal; an intention is a statement of desire or a wish or a dream, but it is not a goal. As we will discuss later in this chapter, intentions can be used to help execute goals, but they are not goals. Intentions are too vague, too hard to measure, and too lacking in structure to be effective goals.
Rather, we need to think about goals as a combination of desired outcomes, processes or strategies to achieve those outcomes, and learning and discovery. Indeed, like Gaul, goals can be divided into three types: