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September 22, 2006

Do Good Intentions Lead to Results in Performance?

By Shannon Lear Martin

Setting goals are key to improving performance, but how often do people set goals then never measure them or quit halfway? A better way to approach goal-setting is to decide what your intentions are (i.e. what kind of performance you expect) and start from there.

According to Jeffrey Gitomer, “What you intend to do is what you actually do. Goals notwithstanding, it's all about your intentions."

In the world of personal growth and development, it’s generally accepted that goals and intentions are linked. Intentions actually precede goal setting. If you fall short of intention, or don’t focus on your intention, you are not likely to achieve the goal you set.

The same is true in the business world.  Sometimes, the intention is so off the mark that the identified goals (and subsequent results) take business performance way off track. The best example of this I’ve ever seen was reported in the April 16, 2001, issue of FORTUNE magazine about Gateway Computer:

One policy put a time limit on customer service calls; reps who spent more than 13 minutes talking to a customer didn't get their monthly bonuses. As a result, workers began doing just about anything to get customers off the phone: pretending the line wasn't working, hanging up, or often--at great expense--sending them new parts or computers. Not surprisingly, Gateway's customer satisfaction rates, once the best in the industry, fell below average. What's more, many customers stopped recommending Gateway to their friends and families; Gateway's referral business, once 50 percent of total sales, fell to about 30 percent.

The intention was reducing call times, the goal was 13 minutes or less or no bonus.  The result was painful!

You may have a goal for a training class, or you may have been given goals for training your workforce, but your intentions will dictate the job performance related to your training effort.

Be clear about your intentions for each training effort:
•    Write down the performance intentions before you write the course goals.
•    When creating a course, keep the intention in mind at all times.  Ask the question “Does this (information, task, activity, exercise, etc.) lead to my performance intention?”
•    For each course goal, make sure you can identify the content that addresses the goal.
•    Finally, develop a method to confirm when the performance intention is fulfilled on the job.

Shannon Lear Martin is a performance consultant with TrainUtopia, where she helps clients measure and improve organizational performance in support of their business goals and objectives. She can be reached at smartin@trainutopia.com.


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Tom Grimshaw

The example you gave of Gateway was a great one. All items (what you refer to as goal and intention as well as the plan\practice) have to be in alignment for the result to be attained.

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