Every corporate job I've had has had some sort of goal setting and review process. At first glance this seems like a great idea. I get to pick some things that I want to accomplish over the next year, come up with some indicators to show that the goals have been accomplished and then at the end of the year I get to review how I've done and if I meet and/or exceed those goals I get a raise, a promotion or both. It looks like a win-win for me and the company.
I've found that the reality is much different. Typically I've had to select from a limited company defined set of goals. My goals often require input from other people, who often don't have the same goals on their list. While my goals meet the company business requirements at the time, the business requirements almost always change during the year and my goals no longer match what the business needs.
The review process typically involves periodic meetings with management to see how things are going and to make sure that all the resources I need are available. This usually takes the form of 1 hour a month for a one-on-one, a longer 1-2 hour quarterly meeting to touch base and a year end review where the previous year is looked at to see what was accomplished, how many goals were met and new goals for the following year are set. Of course, to be able to accurately defend what I did over the year I need to spend time maintaining documentation and metrics over the year. In one position, I would spend an hour a day maintaining these metrics.
So is this goal setting and review process useful? Yes and No.
On the YES side:
- the company can control what I'm working on to match the business objectives
- there is a paper-trail to show what I've done over a year
- it helps to add the perception of fairness to the promotion/raise process.
On the NO side:
- the goals don't always match what I want to be doing on a personal growth level
- the goals don't always match what actually needs to be done, especially in a start-up environment where things change quickly, so I am not able to actually meet my goals
- the documentation and review process takes up a lot of time that could be better spent on work
- for a personality like mine (INTJ) one-on-one time and having to defend myself to others is an anathema and causes a lot of stress and anxiety
So what works better?
I've worked for a number of smaller companies and for myself. What seems to work best is having a general direction for the product/company, typically set by the owners, board and the product and domain experts, and then allowing everyone on the ground to use their best judgement to get what needs doing done. The resulting product and customer satisfaction and the ability to share in the increased revenue should be its own reward
In terms of management and communication it's best to watch what people are doing, give them kudos when and where they are due (don't wait for special occasions) and give raises and promotions when good work is done, not at a predefined future time.