Is goal setting a waste of time?

Question: Many companies require employees to set goals, especially for the new year, but some workers balk at the idea. They whip something off and quickly forget what they even wrote down. How could the process be handled better so that employees don't view it as simply administrative garbage that wastes time?


Most of the time, these exercises are administrative garbage that wastes time, because there is no follow up. Ever. You could write anything done. No one looks at it – or follows up to see if you did it or accomplished your goals.

If companies really want employees to create goals – they should first, ask themselves some questions. Starting with – WHY!!!! Why do you want employees to write down goals? What exactly are you hoping will change as a result of employees setting goals. If the answer is – well – we think it’s a good way to motivate people – then the next question should also by why. Why do you want to motivate people? What will motivated employees do differently? Keep asking these questions – until you get to your real problem that you really want changed. 

Once you understand what exactly it is you really hope will change – you can start thinking of ways you might accomplish that. Asking employees to write down goals – is probably not the best way to get whatever your real goal is accomplished. But you won’t know that – until you know what exactly you are hoping to change by doing whatever it is you think you should do as a manager. 

Good managers, don’t waste employees time on nonsense. They focus their energy and work to create cohesive work groups that excel at problem solving collaboratively.  Thinking you need employees to have “goals” as employees -  may be a proxy problem. It may not be – but it most likely is. Focus on what your real problem is and your employees will thank you.

A better idea: 

It may be better to do a session with key employees at various levels of the organization and have a conversation about what the company can do better to help the employees get their jobs done more effectively.  Ask them – what they think the goals of the manager should be for the coming year. What do employees wish the managers would do differently? That information – will probably yield better change results than asking employees what they want to change about themselves.
So I would flip the question upside down and rethink why I think asking employees to write down goals is a good idea in the first place and instead - focus on finding out how I could do better as their manager. I'm pretty sure - every employee has ideas on how their manager can improve things. 


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