Can management do SMART Goals?

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

May 07

Yesterday, I did a media interview on the subject of “Better SMART Goals mean better management.” And the part about the SMART Goals is true: if management embraces making the SMART goal individual and not team, measurable to the individual and not just to the department level, and determines goal attainment levels for performance review ratings, you will get better productivity and accomplishments for the team. (Interview comes out next week).

After we were off-line, the host asked me a very good question: When management can’t even do goals and performance reviews for employees, how do we get them to do SMART goals, much less better SMART goals?

It’s a good question, considering management in many companies can’t even do performance reviews well.

The practice of management is worse

Management is a practice, just like doctors have a medical practice and consulting firms have consulting practices. Yet, the focus of management on employees is more lost than ever due to the toughness of the current recession. Many businesses are struggling to survive. I get that.

But we’re throwing employees under the bus, not just with layoffs, but by not practicing smart management that helps focus employee work on the right goals, the right tasks, with the right performance reviews.

After being assigned to a high profile project that was critical to the enterprise, I asked my new manager about what the goals were as it related to my performance review. “Just get the ****** in and don’t worry about the rest of it,” was his response. I get that, too. But that response doesn’t frame the issue, focus the behavior, or show that management had an idea of what the problems were I needed to solve. On the other hand, it showed great confidence in my ability to fix stuff…

Consistent management is not found

When answering my “can management do SMART goals” question, part of my answer was the higher up the organization you go, the less concerned they are with SMART goal constructs or whether the department accomplished stuff through the use of their goals. The higher you go in an organization, the more focused executives are on impacts performance ratings (using goals) have on budgets and costs.

Indeed, it is hard to find consistency in how goals are applied to employees across an organization past one manager of managers. Sure, the SMART goals are written, but when you look under the hood, they are not well written, not consistently monitored and often not relavent by the time the performance review is written and ratings determined.

Management is hard

Being a manager for 15 or so years, I can tell you management is hard. Today, a manager’s day job is additional labor to complete tasks of other managers — and management of people is what is done after the day job is complete. Managers don’t have the time to learn their team’s work, focus on getting work completed, and executing a performance review in a way that improves performance.

The “working with your people” stuff you do at the beginning of the year (goal setting) and once or twice a year for the performance review. In between you keep fires under control and make sure people turn in their status reports on time so you know what is going on. You try and minimize the interactions because an interruption by your employee takes time away from your work, forgetting that your work is to help the employee get stuff done. No wonder no one likes performance reviews: neither managers nor employees spend much time on their goals and attainment until they need to be written.

There is great opportunity for organizations to help their employees focus on work that needs doing and a management team that is disciplined enough to consistently work with their teams to meet their goals. But first, it requires discipline of the management practice to embrace results through real goals.

Not banging of pans.

Can management do SMART goals?


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.

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