Eric P. Bloom: Do an annual goals reset

Eric P. Bloom

In business, a year is very long time. The economy can shift for better or worse, companies can merge, corporate business units can be bought and sold, senior company leadership can come and go, and projects can start and then surprisingly be canceled.

Under that backdrop, many companies include goal setting for the year ahead as part of their annual employee performance review process. These types of annual goals have various names, including:

- Manage by objectives (MBOs).

- Annual SMART goals.

- Incentive goals.

- Annual stretch goals.

- And, well, just plan annual goals.

All too often, whatever their name, thoughtful and well-written goals are not modified and/or replaced when business circumstances change, causing these goals to become irrelevant and thus useless. Having these out of date goals still active causes various problems including the following:

- At year end, it’s much more difficult to assess employee performance in preparation for salary increases and/or promotions. For example, if an employee’s goal for the previous year was to redesign the packaging for a product line that the company stopped producing three weeks into the new year, then you can’t use that goal as a measurement tool to assess the employee’s performance because the project was canceled before work began.

- Employees may spend time working on the wrong tasks because they have not been given explicit instructions as to how they should move forward in light of changing priorities and irrelevant existing goals.

- The employee may not know his/her new goals causing the employee to be unsure how he/she will be judged in a future review. This can be extremely stressful, thus reducing productivity and potentially increasing employee attrition.

From a personal perspective, because many of the jobs I have had over the years were project-oriented, more often than not, my goals and the goals of my staff became irrelevant long before they were scheduled to be completed.

When this happened, if my manager didn’t redefine my goals, come performance review time, I was unsure what criteria my boss was using to judge my performance. On the other side of the coin, when I was the manager giving a performance review to a staff member that included out-of-date goals, I always felt a little unprepared and less comfortable giving constructive criticism because I hadn’t properly set the employee’s expectations and work direction in writing.

I once had a manager who was very insistent that all of the managers under him wrote well-thought-out and timely goals for their staffs, but never got around to writing goals for us. This caused all kinds of problems for me and the other managers. First, it was very difficult for us to write meaningful goals when we had no real idea what our goals were for the year. Second, we as managers looked ineffective if we had to rewrite our staff goals because we later found they were pointed in the wrong direction. Third, when changing our subordinate’s goals over and over, they started to feel jerked around and not sure what to work on next. Lastly, we as managers had no idea how we would be judged at year end because our marching orders kept changing.

As you may expect, the moral of this story is that if business situations make previously defined goals irrelevant then update them. It’s good for you as the manager and it’s good for your staff as the receivers of updated goals.

The primary advice and takeaways from today’s column is to know that:

- Well-written goals that are not modified and/or replaced when business circumstances change, become irrelevant and thus useless.

- Out-of-date goals can be very problematic to both you and your staff.

- Updating employee goals as business direction changes is of great value to your staff, the company and you personally.

Until next time, manage well, manage smart and continue to grow.

Eric P. Bloom is the president of Manager Mechanics LLC, a company specializing in Information Technology (IT) leadership development and the governing organization for the Information Technology Management and Leadership Professional (ITMLP) and Information Technology Management and Leadership Executive (ITMLE) certifications. Contact him at, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom, or visit