Tuesday, August 4, 2015

MBO without "O"

One of the most important and difficult things in Management by Objectives is a process of setting goals. There are criteria (SMART) for the goals, and KPIs for their evaluation.

However, the biggest issue appears exactly on a stage of evaluating achievements. It comes from the fact that managers should evaluate the person, not the goal. This slightly contradicts some part of the MBO description, however this is the true aim of people management. For a person’s development it is very important HOW, not only WHAT.

Let’s see an example of the goal “Release version 4 of MyProduct”. Does it match SMART? Well, yes. Goal is achieved at the end of the period – MyProduct v.4 is released, on time and without bugs. Good. But what does it say about the person’s work on it? For me – nothing. Did he put efforts, regular or enormous? Did he go an extra mile to make this happen? What was depending on him at all? Was it an achievement for the person or just usual activities he can perform for sure?

MBO Goals are serving the following needs:

  • Pharos to help a person grow in right direction
  • Aligning moving directions between company and an employee
  • Aligning priorities for the company and employee

Goals are not tasks. While a goal itself can be or sound as something that should be implemented, there should be assumed some efforts (not steps) behind that. This is what makes difference between good and bad goals.

For people development the aim of the real analysis is exactly the efforts to achieve a goal and extra miles out of the goal. Achieving a goal from formal side is just “must have” situation, this is what a person should do as a part of his job, this is what he is being paid for. It’s a bit strange to praise a senior engineer for not failing his duties.

Instructions and tasks are not the goals. There is certain level of expectation from each employee, that includes complexity of tasks he must execute.

Funny thing here, that we do not always need goals to evaluate a person. Goals might become unnatural sentences that have nothing to do with reality and prevent proper people development.