Possibly the most common prescription handed out by managers is to set goals; it’s a cheap trick for clarifying incentives. The authors (Harvard BSchool) of this amusingly titled paper Goals Gone Wild suggest it should come with a warning label. The paper includes a few examples of each of the deadly side effects. These warnings are well known in the liturature on applied behaviorism.
I liked this bit of damning with faint praise from the Q&A –
Sean Silverthorne: So, are you against incentives and goals?
Max Bazerman: No, my coauthors and I are not against incentives. We believe in incentives. And each of us has found goals useful in limited domains. …
A useful paper as it is exausting running counter to conventional wisdom.