Monday, 23 February 2009


James Bartholomew has great post about the phenomenon of target-setting which has become such a feature of life in modern Britain.

I cannot remember when target-setting came into fashion, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Alas, it has often led to ridiculous consequences.

One of the reasons for this is that target-setting is largely about producing good statistics, and while statistics tell a story, they never tell the full story. Statistics can be massaged, and we have long known that statistics can be highly deceptive.

A closely related reason is that target setting encourages people to aim at hitting the target to the exclusion of everything else. In the real world, however, there are some things that are very desirable, but for which no target will be given. Unless one's job is very straight-forward, it is possible to hit all the targets, but to do the job unsatisfactorily.

Following on from that, a third reason is that target-setting often assumes that the people at the top who set the targets know everything, and that the people lower down the chain of command cannot think for themselves. The problem is that the less people are encouraged to think for themselves, the less they tend to.

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