Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The more difficult the goal, the greater the achievement - goal-set motivation

First of all, let’s establish our goal. We want to get out more bang for the buck in our development process. Since we believe in an empowered, self organized team which takes responsibility for their actions and work we need method to promote this behaviour. It turns out that using goals to steer and focus is just that method!

In this post we will look at some of the more important aspects of goal-set motivation and why it should appeal to you as a leader.

1. The more difficult the goal, the greater the achievement

This means that situation that the team, or individual for that sake, is commited and posses the ability to achieve the goal, the performance of that team or individual will increase. If not, the performance will instead drop at high goal levels.

2. The more specific the goal, the more precisely performance in regulated

This might sound desirable at first but give it another go. In reality this means that if you focus too much on details you run a very high risk of dampen or kill creativity. This is one reason we preach the usage of negotiable user stories in Scrum instead of function based planning.

3. Goals that are both specific and difficult lead to the highest performance

People do not actually do their best when trying to do their best because, as  a vague goal, it is compatible with many different outcomes, including those lower than one's best. Therefore, goals need to be both specific and difficult to maximize performance. All in accordance with statement one and two above.

4. Commitment to goals is most critical when goals are specific and difficult

Obvious perhaps but I’ll spell it out anyway. Easy and vague goals do not require much dedication and are therefore easy to commit to.

5. (This one is important) High commitment to goals is attained when:

a) the team is convinced that the goal is important

b) the team is convincend that the goal is attainable

6. Participation by subordinates yields higher commitment

For example, participation from the team leads to higher commitment. But the goals might not be set as high as of they where set by their superiors.

7. In general goals stimulate planning and leads to higher quality

Therefore we should strive for using goals in planning and in measurements. And goal setting is in fact most effective when there is feedback showing progress in relation to the goal. The goals help to orient us and affect performance by affecting the direction of action, the effort exerted and the persistence over time.

8. When people strive for goals on complex tasks they are least effective in discovering suitable strategies if:

a) they have no prior domain knowledge or no relevant training (obvious right?)

b) there is high pressure to perform well (a team where failure is not allowed)

c) there is high time pressure to perform well immediately (an already late project)

Here, feedback is very effective in motivating higher performance. But remember, feedback alone is just information. You must relate it to the goals.

9. Finally, high goals might actually lead to less performance satisfaction than easy goals

This has to do with the fact that goals server as standards of self-satisfaction and harder goals demands higher accomplishment in order to attain self-satisfaction than easy goals.

So why should you this leadership technique of self-set goals? Well, because:

It can help you to provide and communicate an inspiring vision

Let you act as a role model when aiming for a more self organizing organization

You can expect outstanding performance if you make it work

It promotes those who embrace the vision and dismiss those who reject it

It is a very efficient way of delegating responsibility and ownership

You express genuine confidence in your employees and peers

You can actually ask for commitment in public and who knows, you might finally get it as well!

No comments:

Post a Comment