Well it’s about that time of year when you have to start thinking about OBJECTIVES, or goals, or whatever you want to call them. Basically, things that you say you’re going to do that, at the end of the year, you’ll be forced to refer to and say “hey, remember 12 months ago when we had a team of 20 and I was given these objectives – well, now there’s only four of us, are they still relevant?”

Of course, setting objectives is no easy task. No, you can’t blithely write down phrases such as “do my job” and “do some work”… no, they have to be smart, which is short for smart-arsed. Or alternatively, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time.

… and Time? How does that fit in? I know management loves a good mnemonic every now and again, but at least make the effort to complete it properly. After four adjectives, at least have the balls to find a fifth one… “come on folks, we’ve got to find an adjective that begins with T”

“Tremendous?”

So time it is, then. Time-based might have sufficed, but let’s stick with time. So your objectives basically have to be something you can a) measure and b) that’s not completely bonkers. No taking over the world this year, then, but we can achieve a 1% increase in arse-on-seat time.

If you’re really unlucky, your business will have a “performance management system” which involves you logging on – perhaps once a year – to enter these objectives into the system. Not only will you have to enter these objectives, but you’ll have to allocate a “business goal” to each of them, such as “growth” or “loyalty” or some bollocks like that. What’s more, you’ll probably have some of your manager’s objectives, too – so you’re responsible for the layabout above you as well. In fact, you could have some “team” objectives, which means you’re also responsible for the failure of others.

Lucky you. In fact, we don’t receive objectives from our manager at all, no, they’re “cascaded down”. Objectives tend to start at the Managing Director itself in a pique of generosity. His objective will be “make fuckloads of cash”, and his Senior Leadership Team will each have slightly less overt objectives such as “create value through solutioning” or “drive 5% efficiency by leveraging lean six sigma methodologies in team”, as well as the “make fuckloads of cash” one that has been cascaded down. It’s like a waterfall of objectives, except that the waterfall is brown in colour and smells. Yet somehow instead of diluting itself on the way down, it gets browner and smellier until it reaches the very bottom – the “junior” level – where the work actually gets done.

And it’s here that the objectives are actually measured. “Oh sorry,  you only achieved a 14% rise in excel spreadsheet data submission this year, instead of 15% so you won’t get your 50p annual bonus, I’m so sorry, but you will get a special handshake from the MD, who’s going to give a motivational speech telling you how valued you are and that you really do create tangible, measurable value for the business, you do really, now go fuck off and do some work as this meeting has taken your productivity levels down by 0.01%.”

And all of this makes you wonder how a Senior Manager can get away with constantly missing targets. Do SMART objectives actually matter to, say, the CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland? Even if his sole objective was “to make fuckloads of money”, he didn’t achieve it, but he’s still going to get his bonus. Perhaps it’s all about compiling a dossier of excuses throughout the year so that you can brush off missing every objective.

“You didn’t meet your sales target of twelvety gazillion pounds this year. Why?”

“Well there was a shortage of cheese on the 14th of April which meant that productivity levels dipped and staff engagement levels took a nosedive meaning that we were unable to leverage this key sales-point in a customer-facing value-oriented manner.”

“Nice. We’ll let you off that one. Now, tell me why you failed to meet the efficiency savings target of 23%”

“Well, my feet hurt.”

“That’s a good one. Here’s your money. Don’t tell your team, though, they’re all getting made redundant next week.”

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