Book 7

The Trouble With Targets

The subject of targets is one of the least challenged and most mis-understood in the modern world. Here in the UK this subject has generated a dogma, which has blighted our economic development for over 3 decades.

School grades, hospital waiting lists, production quotas, blue light response times, service league tables, turnaround times, nursing standards: no aspect of modern living seems immune from the apparent need for targets. Pay for performance, commission and other bonus systems are the remuneration bedfellows of targets and league tables. They are the inevitable consequence of 3rd Generation Management  ‘command and control’ thinking. They are both wrong and unnecessary.

Deep down, we know that we are each motivated to satisfy needs and achieve goals. But does the fact that we naturally exhibit goal-seeking behavior justify the widespread use of targets, rewards and punishments to manipulate what we do, how and when?

Worst of all, targets affect why we do what we do.   Our motivation transfers from satisfying a (usually genuine) need to accomplishing the (often arbitrary) target.

In this book we take a straightforward and direct approach to flushing out the underlying assumptions beneath the target / bonus culture, and the fallacies and management errors that they invariably lead to.

With videos, thinking points and clear examples we show how targets are not an effective way to improve systems or motivate ‘lazy’ people. We expose how target thinking creates a binary world view of acceptability (pass/fail) and offer a better way of working.

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