Targets are funny things. They scare the living daylights out of some people, but motivate and compel others. Sometimes they are ignored, sometimes they are moved, sometimes they are taken too literally. A target can improve one result while simultaneously sabotaging another. There are people who can't do without them, and people who refuse to accept that they are good for anything at all.
But targets can play a very important role in performance management — when they're set up properly. They help us make the improvement we're seeking real and tangible. It's one thing to say that we want to reduce the waste our organisation sends to landfill. But it makes it so much more tangible to say we want to halve the amount of waste we send to landfill by the end of the year.
Targets quantify how far away we are from where we want to be, helping us appreciate the size of the performance gaps we need to close. We must be deliberate in deciding how we're going to close them — be confident our investment in closing those gaps will be worth it.
This chapter discusses the organisational habit of Action and the three mindsets that foster it, but a major component of understanding Action is targets. Targets give performance improvement a direction and a distance to reach for. And so targets, when they're designed and chosen well and couched in the context of continuous performance improvement, give Action a very deliberate focus: ...