Warning: Goals maybe hazardous to your health

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.

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