The key points that Locke and Latham made were that motivational goals needed to have the following dimensions: clarity, challenge, commitment, feedback and complexity. Goals need to be clear and measurable such as: My goal is to reduce maintenance downtime by 15 percent. Secondly, goals must be challenging, with achievement as the final payoff. Thirdly, employees must feel like part of the goal-setting process to be committed to a clearly relevant goal. Next, there must be a program that involves feedback, recognition and progress reports. Lastly, the task must be complex but not overwhelming, with sufficient time and resources available. Effects
Locke, Latham and associates conducted numerous studies over the years to build a case for their motivation and goal-setting theory hypothesis. In a 1974-75 study, Latham found that unionized truck drivers increased the number of logs loaded onto their trucks from 60 percent to 90 percent of the legal allowable weight as a result of setting goals. They saved the company $250,000 in nine months. In 1982, another group of unionized drivers saved $2.7 million in 18 weeks by adhering to assigned goals of increasing their daily trips to the mill. These are just a few of the examples discussed in Locke and Latham's report, "Building A Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation: A 35-Year Odyssey." Considerations
There are still some limitations to motivation and goal-setting theory, Latham and Locke admit. For example, they say that the goals of the organization are not always the same as the goals of the individual. Perhaps the company's goal is to get workers trained in new safety protocols. However, the manager's bonus depends upon the company's financial performance, not the employee's grasping of the safety procedures. Therefore, the manager may not be motivated to take employees away from their tasks to complete the training. Another limitation is that learning goals do not always foster interest, and interest goals do not always facilitate learning. There also is the problem that individuals are more tempted to take risky actions in pursuit of their goals, which could potentially lead to failure rather than success.
Goal Setting Theory MechanismsGoal mechanisms affect performance by increasing motivation to reach set goals (Latham, 2004). These mechanisms are inputs that affect behavior in groups or individuals, which serve to increase attention to a goal, energy in pursuing a goal, persistence in achieving a goal, and ability to strategize to reach a goal. When an individual or team can focus attention on behaviors that will accomplish a goal, they also divert attention away from behaviors that will not achieve the goal. Goals energize people to expend more effort based upon the effort that is required to reach a certain goal. Goals also lead to a persistent pursuit of reaching the goal by providing a purpose for that pursuit (Latham, 2004). Lastly, when people are pursuing a goal they will seek effective means for accomplishing it, particularly if the goal is difficult to achieve (PSU, 2012). The following chart briefly describes each of the four goal setting theory mechanisms.
Mechanism | Description | Example |
Energizing | Inspiration to put out a certain amount of effort based upon the difficulty of achieving one's goal. | An individual who wants to become an airline pilot will train to prepare himself on a high level to accomplish this goal. | Task Persistence | The amount of time spent on the behaviour to achieve a goal. | The individual that wants to become an airline pilot will study hard and train longer hours. | Effective Strategies | In wanting to achieve a goal the individual seeks out different ways to achieve it. | In trying to become an airline pilot a person might look for ways or techniques that maximize his training or understanding. |