Culture and concepts

Management by objectives, does it work or not?

Management by objectives, the only way to achieve the results?

This is the subject of an eternal debate: how to achieve performance? Should we manage by objectives, based on the results, or manage by behavior, on the means? In some companies, the result is more important than the means taken to achieve it. In others, there is a strong belief that results will be achieved if the right behaviors are followed. So what is it?

Management by objectives, yes, it works

I have to agree with all the aficionados of management by objectives, yes it works. By understanding how it works, we will be able to nuance and choose the cases in which to apply management by objectives (aka MBO).

A goal turns off the distractions, it motivates in the short term to work harder and longer. Therefore, it increases performance: I will reach my goal. For example, I can set myself the goal of writing this article before noon. I use a chronobiological deadline, I have a deliverable and a clear deadline. To reach it, my brain must focus on this unique task, I must forget everything else. Will I get there? By focusing on this task, I will give myself a chance to make it happen. Without a lens, I have little chance of attaining it, since my brain will think of other things, and thus make me act on other actions.

Another goal might be to sell two items or service contracts, or track five Internet requests. It’s clear and I know what I have to achieve to reach my goal by noon.

A chosen or imposed goal?

A goal reduces the focus. When I focus on my goal, it reduces my creativity because I’m in “run, deliver, perform” mode. If I set the goal, I know how I’m going to achieve it. If someone has imposed it on me, I may need to think about how to reach it. I need to think about the process, to set up a strategy, which requires creativity. This is therefore not compatible with this restricted focus.

Also, I remind you that one of the keys of the SMART objective is that it is attractive, that is to say that I like it, that I wish to reach it.

If you ask a child to tidy his room within 15 minutes, she can probably do it, but finish her homework in 15 minutes … All the creativity required to solve problems is turned off by the focus lens pressure.

An imposed goal can generate deviant behaviors, I do everything I can to reach it, including actions that are not desired, I run after rat-tails.

Management by objectives works in two situations …

For repetitive tasks requiring little or no creativity, very practical and down to earth things. We can then use SMART objectives, quantified and above all shared. It is the punctual performance that we address in this case. For example: Ironing the laundry within 1 hour, make 5 follow-up calls in the next hour …

To improve the overall performance, i.e. the skills, management by objective works when the objectives are related to the development, therefore to the means, and not to the result. The objectives must be based on the behavior, which will support the achievement of the mastery. For example: Take 5 minutes before each task to remind me of the purpose of my task.

à retenir

Before using MBO, ask yourself about your goal and what you want to achieve or infuse as a corporate culture.

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