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Means versus the end

I’ve recently had some conversations about the use of target metrics. Ok, ok, I’ll fess up….not so much conversations but rather my ranting about targets when any remotely related topic came up. The best way I can explain my loathing of target metrics as goals, especially when they are tied to rewards, is that they are a means being used as an end. 
I like goals. Goals are great. However, a very common practice is to create a goal and then set a target metric to it. For instance, grow our revenue by 12% or capture 4 points of market share from our competitor.  The idea is that this will motivate the organization to achieve the goal because it can be readily monitored. My experience is that these targets create havoc within an organization. In order to meet them, they motivate all sorts of unhealthy behaviors, like sacrificing profit margins to meet revenue growth or cutting development expenditures to meet profits. 
A corporate goal should never be simplistic so that it can be met while risking the future of the company. Short-term target goals are often met at the expense of long-term health. Worse, they chain an organization into a particular goal that may lose relevancy when the environment changes. Do you really want to build more rigidity into your business? Instead, choose a lofty goal that focuses on creating value, like bringing healthy foods to the masses, and use a variety of metrics to see how well you are doing. Don’t tie these to compensation or other rewards because then you’ll create even more bad behaviors.  Plus, collecting, monitoring, and rewarding measures will become a full –time job. Keep it lofty, keep it flexible, and let the action plan take care of the details. 
In rewards, targets, measures
By Karen Phelan
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