"Reaching a goal you don't have is as hard as returning to a place you've never been" (Zig Ziglar). Setting objectives is fundamental in order to excel yourself. If you never set a goal, you'll never be able to go beyond that line! Also, objectives are motivational. They:
– Set focus to relevant actions to perform a task;
– Conduct to higher effort levels;
– Stimulate the development of long-term plans to reach that goal;
– Define time frames;
– Brutally increase failure resistance;
– Tend to reduce procrastination;
– Allow more accurate feedback;
Having said that, setting goals should follow the typical "SMART" Criteria:
– Specific: What exactly are we going to do for whom? Target a specific area for improvement. This should be as clear as possible, not vague;
– Measurable: Is it quantifiable and can WE measure it? Concrete criteria for measuring progress towards the attainment of the goal;
– Attainable: Can it be done? Choosing goals that are achievable and realistic;
– Relevant: Will this objective have the desired effect ?
– Time-bound: When will this goal be accomplished? Grounding goals within a time frame.
One of the most common mistakes I see nowadays in the Software Development industry falls into the "A" fail: Realistic! I know that due to time and budget constraints we have to be specially thorough when it comes to investments, but setting a goal for a project or an individual that will only be achievable if and only everything goes perfect is a truly horrific bad practice. In Software Development, nothing is ever perfect and the estimates should always be based upon a three-point estimation: Worst case, expected and best case scenario.
However, the setting of unrealistic goals isn't just bad by the direct outcome: it will impact on everything a team does! Another real danger is that the team spirit will be doomed! How can you give feedback to someone if by setting unrealistic goals the team member will always be failing "deadlines"? How can you demand high quality from a team member that lacks motivation, time, resources...?
So, do the right projects and do them right!
Be ambitious. Be Wise along the way...