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Performance Management Performance Management Cycle

Improved Performance Starts with Planning II

The second of four articles addressing performance planning

This article will address goal setting at the individual level. Setting difficult but achievable goals is an excellent technique for improving employee and team performance. In their book, Goal Setting: A Motivational Technique That Works!, Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham present seven key steps to the goal setting process. Each of these steps can be used easily and should be used by managers and employees in Federal performance management programs.

Key Steps to Goal Setting

Specify Tasks

The first key step in the goal setting process is to specify the work that must be accomplished. For Federal employees, this can be done through their performance plans. Critical elements should clearly describe the tasks or behaviors employees must accomplish or demonstrate in order to achieve "Fully Successful" performance.

Set Targets

Setting target levels of performance is the second key step in successful goal setting. Research has shown that setting goals that are difficult but possible to achieve produces higher levels of performance than if no goal or a vague goal had been set. Regulations require only that the "Fully Successful" level for each critical element be described. But if a higher goal such as an "Excellent" or "Outstanding" standard is not established, performance improvement can be happenstance rather than a planned objective. If appraisal program designers want to take advantage of the benefits of goal setting, they will design their programs to include establishing goals above "Fully Successful."

Develop Clear Measures. Employees must know how their performance is measured. Using clear, credible measures of performance at all levels of operation organizational, team, and individual is necessary for successful performance management. Also, measures must gauge employee performance against all the goals in their elements. If measures cannot be qualitative or quantitative, they should at least verify whether the goal was achieved.

Outline a Time Frame

Specifying the expected time frame for goal achievement is the next step in effective goal setting. If a task has a maximum time limit, it should be stated in the "Fully Successful" standard. If, however, decreasing the elapsed time needed for task completion is desired, a standard above "Fully Successful" could state such.

Prioritize Goals

If multiple goals are established, they should be ranked in terms of importance or priority. To maximize the benefits of goal setting, the employee should be aware of and agree to the priority ranking. If one critical element is considered more important than the others, the employee should know about it.

Rate Goal Performance

Employees must know how elements will be appraised and how summary levels will be assigned. Also, if goal achievement is to be used for determining incentive payouts or granting awards, employees must know the criteria on which the awards are based.

Coordinate Efforts Necessary for Goal Achievement

Many goals established for critical elements may require only individual effort, with little coordination needed with other employees. However, if tasks are highly interdependent, be sure to develop a means of measuring each individual's contribution to the group's product.

Establishing critical elements with standards set at and above the "Fully Successful" level, developing a measurement system, and using employee participation throughout the process can optimize the benefits of goal setting and performance planning.

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