The Goal is in the Way

Goals are often viewed ambivalently in companies: As a rule, they are at the top of the wish list of almost all employees, as well as in the priorities of management. At the same time, they are associated with a lot of effort and little sustainability. In organisational development, they are either “hyped” under the keyword OKR (Objectives and Key Results) or rather avoided as “old-fashioned”.

As a rule, the focus is on the process: Who decides on which goals? How do we want to involve whom? How do we keep track of the goals? What do we do if there are deviations from the goals? These are all very relevant questions, since the process itself is the obvious effort.

However, I am more interested in the question behind the process: What purpose should the goals serve? At first glance, terms like control, alignment, transparency, assessment, measurability or performance improvement may come up. In further conversations, terms like orientation, focus, growth, creativity, motivation, error culture, self-determination or meaning may also surface.

If you take a closer look at these terms, it becomes clear that they affect people in very different ways. At the same time, they are rather difficult to reconcile in practice. Realistically, at most one or two perspectives take precedent. But which ones? This usually has a very decisive effect on the way the organisation works and on the desired success.

My idea, therefore, is to first ask the question: What effect do you want to achieve with the goals; what behaviour do you want to promote? For example: control vs. self-determination, performance vs error culture, what motivates your employees? And how does this affect the types of goals and the formulation of goals?
In my view, only when this question has been clarified a process can be developed which is suitable, sustainable and has low effort. And then goals, and how to deal with them, can be a very crucial part of organisational development.

To what extent have you thought about goals – about the process, the formulation, the various steering effects? How important do you think they are? What aspects do you focus on in your daily – and are they the same as you should focus on?