Management by Objectives: Too ‘Old School’ as a management technique?

management by objectives

Management by Objectives: Still a valid management tool?

Are the managers in your organisation reluctant to use performance objectives, as a way of improving staff performance and satisfaction? Is it because they see ‘Management by Objectives’ as an old model of management – too ‘old school’?

Do they say things like

• Shouldn’t we have moved on from telling our staff what to do?

• What about Gen Y staff? Won’t they resent having performance objectives set for them?

• Why can’t we just trust our staff to do the job?

They have a point don’t they? After all ‘Management by Objectives’ was introduced by Peter Drucker in the early 1950’s and written about in his book ‘The Practice of Management’ as long ago as 1954. So, is Management by Objectives still a valid management tool? I think it is as valid a management tool as it ever was. Here’s why:

Management by Objectives Q1: Shouldn’t we have moved on from telling our staff what to do?

Yes, I guess we should have! There are very few staff members who need performance objectives imposed on them (maybe the inexperienced new starter and the persistent underperformer). The majority, of course, wouldn’t appreciate it at all


Research consistently tells us that the majority of staff do want clarity about what their manager expects of them. And the important point is: objectives are not just about the ‘numbers’ part of the job (as many managers think they are); they are also about the behaviours

Managers who use objectives effectively use them to clarify what effective performance looks like for those crucial behavioural elements of the job such as;

• the way the person manages their time

• the way they deal with clients

• the way they deal with problems

And so on

Why? Because these are the areas of the job that many staff really need clarity on, and where clarity brings improved performance

But we are still left with the issue of how to avoid the ‘telling’. A really effective way to address this is for the manager to involve their staff in writing their own objectives. There are a number of ways managers can approach this but, in short, they simply need to ask their staff the question: What do you think effective performance looks like for this element of your job?’

The manager and their staff member can then work together to take their ideas and define them as performance objectives. No ‘telling’ involved

(I explain in step by step how to involve staff in writing objectives in my video ‘video ‘Motivating Your Staff With Powerful Performance Objectives’)

Management by Objectives Q2: What about Gen Y (& Z) staff? Won’t they resent having performance objectives set for them?

You’ll probably know that there’s plenty of research about the challenges of managing Gen Y and Gen Z staff (generally understood to be people born after 1982). One thing that research tells us is that, because these people have grown up with routine academic testing, they want and need to know how they are performing on a regular basis

In summary, they want feedback and they want plenty of it!

The most effective way to give feedback is to give that feedback based on actual performance against agreed objectives because this feedback is seen as being accurate, impartial and (err) objective. Once staff (of any generation) understand that one of the key benefits of agreeing performance objectives is to ensure they receive effective, useful feedback they quickly embrace the concept and involve themselves (if the manager invites them) in defining those objectives

(Read more at ‘What Does Generation Y Want from Performance Reviews?’)

Management by Objectives Q3: Why can’t we just trust our staff to do the job?

Managers could try simply trusting their staff to intuitively know what they want them to do and then to do that. And

• If each and every staff member is performing to the standard needed each and every day

and they say they are comfortable with

• Not having clarity on what their manager considers to be effective performance

• Not getting feedback based upon an accurate evaluation of their actual performance against agreed standards (objectives)

Then, of course, managers should feel free to just stop managing altogether!

If not…

Management by Objectives as a Management Technique

Management by Objectives is a management technique that – used wisely –  is as relevant today for improving staff performance and job satisfaction as it ever was (no matter what the generation of the staff member!)

Do the managers in your business need to know how use performance objectives?

Then why not take a look at my video ‘Motivating Your Staff With Powerful Performance Objectives’ HERE

performance objectivesOr why not take a look at my e-book ‘Motivating Your Staff with Powerful Performance Objectives’ – a step-by-step guide for managers, team leaders and supervisors who want to motivate their staff to high performance. More details HERE

Leave a Reply