Managing goals in organisational contexts

When setting goals (aims) in an organisational context, it is important to consider them from both an individual and organisational perspective.

Individual goals

According to the OU website:

Individual aims relate to what individuals aspire to achieve for themselves. They may be statements about personal causes or may reflect an individual’s personality,incentives and career progression.

Individual level goals are important because they can motivate and influence individuals in the way they approach work-related tasks.

Of particular importance is whether the individual is performance-oriented or learning-oriented.

  • Performance-oriented individuals tend to be highly motivated by achievable goals, but work less productively as soon as these goals have been met.
  • Learning-oriented individuals have a preference for more challenging goals, and are also more likely to continue beyond once a goal has been achieved.

Obviously this isn’t a clear-cut distinction! A particular individual may approach some tasks with a performance orientation, and others with a learning orientation.

Organisational goals

It is obvious that organisational goals relate not to individuals, but to the organisation. According to the OU website:

Without reifying the organisation as a single purposeful actor, organisational aims belong to organisations. Unlike individual aims, they cannot be achieved by individuals acting on their own.

Organisations also have different kinds of goals, dictated by the industry in which they operate, their culture, and their leadership. These will typically change over time according to external pressures and strategic priorities.

The setting of clear goals is critical to the success of an organisation, but many leaders fail to set clear aims in practice. The trick is to align the individual-level goals that motivate individuals with the organisation-level goals that set the direction of the organisation.

(Source: The Open University, 2012).

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