Management By Objectives

ManagementByObjectives was popularized by David Packard, in "The HP Way". The purpose is to avoid micro-management: come up with broad objectives with the employee, and then let the employee decide how to achieve them.

The meme has since been distorted to mean "Here are your objectives. If you can't do it, you're fired. And I don't want any excuses, even reality, for why you didn't achieve your objectives." This is also known as having an AggressiveSchedule?.

I first encountered this in the 1970's when working in industrial research. I know that some of the people working on computers (it wasn't called IT back then as far as I remember) got very worried. Then they hit on the ideas of putting down as their objective for the current month what they had achieved the previous month. This reduced anxiety. -- JohnFletcher

MBO made the SovietUnion great. The central commies would set production goals for all the regions, who would then heroically meet them. Meaningless goals and useless production were irrelevant. If one region produced more steel than anyone needed, the commies would just use the steel to build more steel mills.

The positive side of MBO is as the counter to micromanagement - rather than spending your time dictating what someone should be doing on a minute-by-minute basis, leaving them fighting you all the way, ask them for what you really want, and let them decide how to get there - you spend less time hovering over their shoulder, and they spend less time dragging their heels over one part when they're in the mood to work on another (that risks letting their poor self-management skills lead them into spending too much time GoldPlating one part and never getting round to another, but for a motivated, organised person, the gains from giving them their head outweigh the costs of their not choosing the abstractly most efficient order to implement things)

The negative side of MBO is when the objectives are given too much weight - whether when they're unachievable, yet can't be allowed to slip; or when they're too easy, but going beyond them is unthinkable heresy; or when they're totally divorced from reality, yet held up as the only measure of success (until Darwin intervenes...)

Related: ScottyFactor


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