Monday, September 17, 2012


Are stretch goals yet another management absurdity...

It goes without saying that many large enterprises are very mature in making absurdities a best practice. Today, I will comment on the notion of stretch goals...

Stretch goals can be terribly demotivating. When stretch goals seem overwhelming and unattainable, they sap employees' intrinsic motivation. The enormity of the problem causes people to freeze up, and the extrinsic motivator of money crowds out the intrinsic motivators of learning and growth.

Isn't it fascinating how stretch goals are championed in otherwise risk adverse cultures? I wonder if the sub-prime crisis was a stretch goal in encouraging someone to achieve higher return without supposed risk?

Have you ever noticed that stretch goals are particularly encouraged by champions of Capability Immuturity Models (CMMI) and the Project Management community (PMI)? Likewise, you will almost never find an IT executive that came from an architecture background championing something without a foundation. The rationale may be that stretch goals like project plans are so divorced from reality as to be unreal.

Another perspective says people are already stretching themselves. Whether this is in playing sports, learning new musical instruments or languages or even taking on a big home improvement project. The art for the employer is to find the conditions in which individuals will want to make this kind of discretionary effort during company time.

Whenever stretch goals are defined, what percentage of the population manages to achieve them? without wreckless behavior? you get my point. Goals need to be ambitious but not stretched. Anyway, shouldn't we spend more time helping employees understand what works and what doesn't rather than focusing on stretching/guessing?

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