Attainment Strategies within the Goal-Setting Theory

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Critical to the success of any business is having an organized plan to succeed. Many small businesses especially those that are started ad-hoc or almost by accident, are guilty of not taking the time needed to establish clear objectives for their business. Even in large corporations, there may be an overall corporate mission, but it is not easily translated once middle managers seek to merge the corporate mission into their daily activities. Any business, whether a small entrepreneurial start-up or one of the fortune 500 companies, will benefit from carving out time to establish a well thought out business plan. A critical component in implementing a successful plan is to put in place specific goals and create a plan on how to achieve them. The strategies to consider are business type or industry, competitor factorization, the availability of human resources, timeline, and budget considerations, to name just a few. A strategic plan which incorporates goal setting and a defined map on how these goals will be attained will set in place the groundwork for a successful business.

Organizational Goals

A variety of different considerations influence how goals are set. The participants in a goal-setting exercise are as important as the outcome. Depending on the organization, an assortment of various goals based on business philosophy is a significant consideration. Organizational goals are designed to produce a specific outcome. These goals fall into several different categories: official goals, operative goals, and operational goals (Barnat, 2007). Official goals are publicly stated and involve a professionally drafted unified message addressed internally and externally. An example is the Whole Food Market Stores, which has the stated goal of excellence and high quality, according to their mission statement (Declaration of Interdependence, 1997). Operative goals are implemented to bring about the desired result based on the actual internal framework of a company; they include procedures and policies designed to complement the goal of the mission statement. The cooperation of employees is important in making sure that operative goals are met. Operational goals, which are an extension of operative goals, focuses on motivating people and instructing them on expected behavior. Customer service and retail firms are heavily invested in making sure their employees present a courteous and unified service decorum at all times and in all locations. Starbucks Coffee Company is a great example of operational goals because every location offers the same quality of service.

Goal Setting Theories

In some professional organizations, goals are complex phenomena. However, the overall measurement of the effectiveness of goal setting is success. Did it achieve the desired results? (Tang, 2008). Some professional organizations have predefined models as goal implementation instruments. These may be initiated as extensive training modules to encapsulate a firm’s culture and business. These modules are very costly. Often outside marketing companies are hired to write and design the material. How well these instruments work is then measured by the performance of an individual or department based on pre-defined goals. However, this goal-setting theory is somewhat flawed due to its pre-set structure. Although the same message and tone are communicated uniformly, the nuances of human behavior cannot be predicted. However, this type of organization goal setting should not be abandoned. When corporate procedures and policies are close at hand, such as in an on-line database, it offers a quick resource should a difficult situation arise.

In any organization, all levels of staff are important. In the planning process, those affected should be interviewed and consulted regarding their thoughts and opinions. Often these are the staff that will act on and be responsible for the daily activity. Especially in the technical environment when system upgrades are implemented. Those who have been deeply trained on old systems are in the best position to understand nuances and details of implementing a new system, which can be overlooked by system managers who do not actually work within the system each day. These employees can be a great advantage when detailing plans and goal initiatives for the new or upgraded operating systems. In addition, respect for an employee’s contribution to a firm makes them feel a part of the process. The result is that they will work harder without being asked to and will become invested and excited about upcoming changes. Their value cannot be underestimated.

Another concern is setting multiple goals or too many goals within the same time period; this can be confusing and overwhelming. However, setting only one goal, for example, to increase sales by 30% in a business to business industry, but not consider product quality or service as a complementary goal is short-sighted (Gollwitzer, 2010). A very workable goal may involve two different groups of people, the sales group and the product quality and service group. Both have set goals in mind and both goals can be facilitated at the same time. Industry competition is a consideration when goal setting. A fashion design firm may have a grasp on internal support and have a motivated design team, workforce, and budget. However. if not factoring in industry trends and similar business competitors as a variable in a goal setting exercise, the expected yield may not be as expected. This again is an opportunity to strategically combine multiple goals and be careful not to be too aggressive.

Goal setting attributes should be defined, and there should be no questions about what the goals are. When specific goals are set, usually employees tend to understand directives and this usually results in a better work product. Studies show that the complexity of a goal is a motivator for higher-performance (Marler, n.d.). However, caution should be used here, because goals should not be so complex that the employee finds them overwhelming. When setting goals that require the buy-in of other people, making sure that the goal will be well received helps with successful implementation. If people feel as though the new goals are somehow demeaning, unfair, or seen as impractical, they will not take ownership of them. People must be committed to the goal (Marler, n.d.). This can be difficult if the staff is not committed to the business overall. The implementer must create stimuli to ensure that staff will feel as if this is a shared goal and be made to understand how this goal relates to the end work product. Incorporating learning initiatives with the business objectives actively engages employees. When new procedures are implemented, companies taking the opportunity to merge a targeted business goal is a smart move (Lykins, 2012). This creates a culture of directed learning to complement future business goals.

Attainment Strategies

Once goals are formulated and written into a proper business plan, how can these goals be implemented? Every goal needs a formula for the mechanics of how to reach or obtain them. Gollwitzer and Oettingen introduce an intensive discussion of techniques for the successful attainment of formulated goals. Although there are many challenges that may impede the action element of goal progression, people need to understand that obstacles are inevitable and should be prepared to meet them head-on (Gollwitzer & Oettingen, 2010). An enemy of goal implementation is procrastination, or the inability to begin the task at hand. This can be overcome by taking the first step. Another enemy of goal progression is the ability to stay on course. It is so easy to become sidetracked especially when there are many steps to take or the goal has complexities attached to it. In the goal planning process sometimes specific activities are listed, but later it is obvious that they need to be realigned and this may even mean the overall goals need adjustment. This is okay. It is better to change courses than to continue in efforts that prove counterproductive to the overall end result. After considering procrastination, staying on course, and realigning if needed, do not take on more than can be handled. Be realistic about capabilities whether it involves a team of professionals or one person. Following these guidelines will help attain the seemingly elusive result.

Effective goal setting strategies for workgroups are very relevant for companies with larger staff pools. For example, Lowe’s Home Improvement stores have several different departments all focusing on specific goals. For example, the kitchen design department sales goals are different from the sales goals of the flooring department and lighting and lumber have their own objectives as well. However, each department has a small group of staff members who are responsible for meeting or exceeding their goals. Although Lowe’s is an enormous retailer, the same strategies that a small group would use are applicable in Lowe’s environment as well. Van Mierlo and Kleingeld state that “Overall, the accumulating literature does suggest that groups also perform better in the presence of specific difficult goals” (2010, p. 525). Groups who have the ability to accept multi-lateral goals become more practical. However, working with groups can at times be complicated because of competing rather than complementing each other’s efforts (Locke, 2002). Groups must be managed, with a team leader that the entire group reports to. Thus a uniform message will be delivered to management, which will make the group look cohesive and productive. The group strategy encourages inter-personal interaction and promotes people skills. Group members can also leverage strengths by taking on tasks that are in line with their abilities.

All goal-setting activities require credible and supportive feedback. Positive feedback can be a motivator, especially when presented correctly. Feedback should be given throughout the process, not just at the end. Lunenburg explains that when employees are told how they are contributing to specific goals, job performance is enhanced and sustained (Lunenburg, 2011). Communication from management to staff about their progress advises them about how their work product is perceived. The result of letting people know that they are on the right track, or even adjusting the track, results in a better work product.

Effective strategies also include adhering to a timeline. If there is no end date, there will always be another project more important or more significant. An effective timeline has a start date and end date (Lunenburg, 2011). It also has multiple progress points to evaluate if set goals are being met and if they are not what adjustments need to be made to ensure the goal is met. Management, however, should conduct a proper time analysis. Under or overestimating completion of goals can end up having a detrimental effect.

Goal setting and the strategic implementation of them are a formula for success on both a business and a personal level. Goal setting and planning is a strategy that will benefit almost anything worth doing. This includes personal projects such as home improvement, weddings, and vacations. Laying the groundwork for a plan of action will ensure the activity will run smoothly. There may be some obstacles, but they are easier to overcome when pre-planning is involved. Therefore, if goal-setting will enhance personal efforts and energies, it is even more important for professional and business environments. Though the process of goal setting may sound simple, to achieve the necessary outcomes goal setting must be strategic. Goal setting and strategic implementation must include all levels. Once a cohesive plan is initiated, the tools to achieve the end result will also require careful planning and directed action.


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