Time to think about how we are going to approach target-setting differently.

The summer period, a good time for managers to take stock. And? Are the numbers in red, or are they in green? Should adjustments be made, and if so, how? Most results-oriented managers do not turn their backs on that challenge. 

They know the value of “affiliate target-setting,” calling the team to account for their responsibilities to achieve agreed goals. The team meeting for August is already planned. But what if addressing and settling the team on affiliate targets turns out to be the mistake of the year afterward?

53 reasons not to target

Focus on affiliate targets. In order to achieve the CEO’s ambitious goal, Ford was forced to make risky design choices with the Ford Pinto in the late 1960s. The petrol tank was placed directly behind the rear axle, and the number of damage claims from possible victims weighed against the cost of redesigning the car. The design was maintained with 53 fatalities and many injuries as a result…

Goals Gone Wild

The positive effects of goal setting within companies have been extensively described in recent years. Still, relatively little attention has been paid to the systematic adverse effects of target setting. At least four researchers associated with the Harvard Business Review claim that in the article “Goals Gone Wild” (pdf download). They mentioned, among other things, these 3 mistakes when managing affiliate targets:

  • Blind through tunnel vision. The account manager had only one goal in mind. This customer visit would seal his annual affiliate target, now or never. The meeting was prepared down to the last detail. A beautiful PowerPoint presentation would seduce the customer with “an offer he couldn’t refuse.” As he waited at the reception, he couldn’t help but smile, fantasizing about his triumphant return to the office in two hours.
  • The customer was also prepared down to the last detail and immediately brought up a serious complaint. Deliberately, the account manager was not put off: “Uhh, I can’t imagine our people making that mistake! Anyway, let’s discuss more important things, like this PowerPoint that I made especially for you….”
  • The result is easy to guess. A fanatical focus on one goal makes people blind to their work’s success factors, such as customer focus. And let anyone who brushes this trap away with a “That doesn’t apply to me!” feel challenged to watch the video “The Monkey Business Illusion” on youtube.
  • Can’t see the forest for the trees. Average handling time, first-time fix, net promoter score, average waiting time, telephone etiquette. These are just a few balls that the average customer service representative has to keep high during the conversation with you. At the same time, you grumblingly notice that very little empathy is shown.
  • Research shows that employees with too many goals will automatically limit themselves to one goal in complex situations. And they often opt for the easier to achieve quantitative goals (talk time, script), at the expense of more complex qualitative goals (Net Promotor Score). Important Question: What is the main objective with which you want your team to go into the field?
  • Short term politics. Quarterly Goals, Monthly Goals, Week Goals, Day Goals. The shorter the period, the greater the team’s focus, and the greater the chance of success, it turns out. Unfortunately, this formula applies mainly to routine work and not tackling and creatively solving complex problems. Ask two groups of people to solve a complex puzzle, 1 group with time stress and 1 group without time stress, and the last group turns out to be significantly faster. Dan Pink has a wonderful speech about this on Ted.com. Why is this important? Because our work is becoming less and less routine in nature and increasingly requires creative solutions to complex problems.

Doctor’s advice

Specific and ambitious goals generally yield better results than motivating a team with “Do your best!”. That is beyond dispute. Goal setting and monitoring works as a powerful medicine against persistent ailments in your team, such as de-motivation, frivolity, and laziness. 

But powerful drugs sometimes have powerful side effects. Where things go wrong is when generic goals are imposed on a large group of people, without regard to the nature of the employees, the effect on customers, and the company’s long-term interests. 

Therefore, the setting of the charities should be done more like the way a doctor prescribes the medication: First, a thorough analysis per patient and then the right medicine, in the right dose, for the right period.

analytics blur close up commerce
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

Affiliate targeting – conclusion

In other words, the meeting for August can remain on the agenda! And instead of re-dictating annual goals to the team, this is a great time to invite the team to brainstorm important questions together:

  1. Which goals motivate you to achieve the best result for everyone?
  2. What else do you need to achieve those goals?
  3. How can I help you with that?

And then continue to take this medicine monthly for at least 1 year.