Monday, October 17, 2005

To Set a Goal or Not Set a Goal, That is the Question

With the year coming to an end, tis the season to start establishing goals for the next year. Everybody gets together on the task and struggles over what to set for the goals . Regardless if its for plant goals, lean improvement goals, kaizen goals or safety goals, this goal setting process always seems the same to me.

It never fails to come up in our discussion as to why we need a goal? So the group debates the question is it better is to set a goal or not set a goal.

Great quality minds have different viewpoints on this topic. As you may know, W. Edward Deming was not a big fan of goals. His famous 14 points of management specifically calls for the elimination of numerical goals. In his book, Out of the Crisis, he states, "Focus on outcome is not an effective way to improve a process or an activity". On the other side, another great quality mind, Philip B. Crosby supports goal setting. In Mr Crosby's book, Quality is Free, he details the importance of goal setting. He further states that, "All (goals) should be specific and capable of being measured". So which is it?

If you read the details of Dr. Deming's works, his viewpoint is based on the idea that in setting goals we do not have a plan or means to make an improvement to the process. Without this plan, goals are meaningless. This is true.

However, with a plan, the process can be improved towards a goal. According to another expert in the improvement field, Dr, Shigeo Shingo, "Improvement goals serve as the foundation for improvement activities".

Since we had some ideas for improvement, we concluded that goals would be effective. Now the debate really begins, what should we set as the goals?

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