Locke's Goal Setting Theory
Understanding SMART Goal Setting
Goal setting is a powerful way of motivating people. The value of goal setting is so well recognized that entire management systems, like Management by Objectives, have goal setting basics incorporated within them. In fact, goal setting theory is generally accepted as among the most valid and useful motivation theories in industrial and organizational psychology, human resource management, and organizational behavior. Many of us have learned - from bosses, seminars, and business articles - to set SMART goals. It seems natural to assume that by setting a goal that's Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound, we will be well on our way to accomplishing it. But is this really the best way of setting goals?
To answer this, we look to Dr Edwin Locke's pioneering research on goal setting and motivation in the late 1960s. In his 1968 article "Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives," he stated that employees were motivated by clear goals and appropriate feedback. Locke went on to say that working toward a goal provided a major source of motivation to actually reach the goal - which, in turn, improved performance. This information does not seem revolutionary to most of us some 40 years later. This shows the impact his theory has had on professional and personal performance. In this article, we look at what Locke had to say about goal setting, and how we can apply his theory to our own performance goals. Goal Setting Theory
Locke's research showed that there was a relationship between how difficult and specific a goal was and people's performance of a task. He found that specific and difficult goals led to better task performance than vague or easy goals. Telling someone to "Try hard" or "Do your best" is less effective than "Try to get more than 80% correct" or "Concentrate on beating your best time." Likewise, having a goal that's too easy is not a motivating force. Hard goals are more motivating than easy goals, because it's much more of an accomplishment to achieve something that you have to work for. A few years after Locke published his article, another researcher, Dr Gary Latham, studied the effect of goal setting in the workplace. His results supported exactly what Locke had found, and the inseparable link between goal setting and workplace performance was formed. In 1990, Locke and Latham published their seminal work, "A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance." In this book, they reinforced the need to set specific and difficult goals, and they outlined three other characteristics of successful goal setting. Five Principles of Goal Setting
To motivate, goals must take into consideration the degree to which each of the following exists: 1.
Let's look at each of these in detail.
Clear goals are measurable, unambiguous, and behavioral. When a goal is clear and specific, with a definite time set for completion, there is less misunderstanding about what behaviors will be rewarded. You know what's expected, and you can use the specific result as a source of motivation. When a goal is vague - or when it's expressed as a general instruction, like "Take initiative" - it has limited motivational value.
To improve your or your team's performance, set clear goals that use specific and measurable standards. "Reduce job turnover by 15%" or "Respond to employee suggestions within 48 hours" are examples of clear goals.
When you use the SMART acronym to help you set goals, you ensure the clarity of the goal by making it Specific, Measurable and Time-bound. 2.
One of the most important characteristics of goals is the level of challenge. People are often motivated by achievement, and they'll judge a goal based on the significance of the anticipated accomplishment. When you know that what you do will be well received, there's a natural...
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