Mastering Strategic Management
thinly spread.” While specific goals make it clear how efforts should be directed, vague goals such as “do your best” leave individuals unsure of how to proceed.
A goal is measurable to the extent that whether the goal is achieved can be quantified. President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s offered very simple and clear measurability: Either Americans would step on the moon by the end of 1969 or they would not. One of Coca-Cola’s current goals is a 20 percent improvement to its water efficiency by 2012 relative to 2004 water usage. Because water efficiency is easily calculated, the company can chart its progress relative to the 20 percent target and devote more resources to reaching the goal if progress is slower than planned.
A goal is aggressive if achieving it presents a significant challenge to the organization. A series of research studies have demonstrated that performance is strongest when goals are challenging but attainable. Such goals force people to test and extend the limits of their abilities. This can result in reaching surprising heights. President Kennedy captured this theme in a speech in September 1962: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade…not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”
In the case of Coca-Cola, reaching a 20 percent improvement will require a concerted effort, but the goal can be achieved. Meanwhile, easily achievable goals tend to undermine motivation and effort. Consider a situation in which you have done so well in a course that you only need a score of 60 percent on the final exam to earn an A for the course. Understandably, few students would study hard enough to score 90 percent or 100 percent on the final exam under these circumstances. Similarly, setting organizational goals that are easy to reach encourages employees to work just hard enough to reach the goals.