What can accountants learn from GE and Jack Welch about stretch goals?

Scientific research and practical experiences at Jack Welch’s GE, suggest discomfort is the emotion you should feel about the goals you set yourself.
What about helping your business owner clients feel discomfort about their goals too?

Here’s why…

Jack Welch was CEO at GE for 20 years.
Jack pushed for uncomfortable stretch goals not attainable goals.
In his 20 years as GE boss, he increased the company’s market value from $12 billion to $280 billion. That is an increase of $13billion every year for 20 years!

An article in The Economist (2011) about GE’s stretch goals states:

“...if the right environment was created for the group, setting stretch goals and working toward what might seem to be impossible results often became reality.”

That last line appeals: ‘Impossible results often become reality’.

What about SMART goals?

You may be familiar with the SMART goal concept.
Indeed SMART goals get the thumbs up from many research studies (if you want to investigate the research check out this report and the book that summarises 1,000 studies into goals here).
However one element of SMART proves to get in the way of your high performance!

– they must be Specific
M
– they must be Measurable
A
– they must be Attainable
R
– they must be Relevant to you
T – they must be Time bound

The research strongly indicates the middle A - Attainable is wrong!
An attainable goal suggests a sense of comfort with the goal.
Change ‘Attainable’ to ‘Awesome’ and you can keep SMART goals and feel uncomfortable about the goals agreed. Just like Jack Welch did.


For a fascinating study showing how stretch goals helped knee and hip replacement patients walk again go here

For resources to help you set SMART (awesome) g​​​​​oals check out the last few pages of this report here

We’d value your thoughts and experiences of using SMART for stretch goal setting. Please feel free to comment below.

Paul Shrimpling

 

 

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