Goal setting for everyone

As some of you may know, I’ve started an MSC in Applied Positive Psychology. As part of my reading I came across a very interesting piece of empirical research about goal setting. Of course, being a naive student I forget to footnote it! What was interesting about it was that the research found that the value from goal setting was not the motivating and rewarding element, but the actual process of sitting down and clarifying what was needed and that the most value to be had was from the least complex jobs in the organisation. This is contrary to most management doctrine and alot of management practice in organisations that focus on goal setting and performance management exclusively for the top jobs where there is more discretion to shape a role and impact on business performance. Apparently goal setting with less complex jobs provides the clarity that is often missing due to a lack of job description or management dialogue.
So goal setting (and performance management) adds value but not in the way you would think. This suggests a couple of things to me: don’t expect too much from your PM process – it creates a dialogue within employee groups which is the real value; attaching rewards is probably irrelevant although to be fair the research didn’t get into performance based reward; and, if an organisation hasn’t cascaded goal setting and performance management down the organisation, then it should.