Do We Change Goals or Change Actions?

September 8, 2009

I was reading a story in a book about a person who turned his life around. One sentence just jumped out at me. The person said he used to reduce his goals to fit his behavior. His life turned around when he changed his behavior to fit his goals.

Right away I thought of healthcare. Over the years I have met thousands of people in healthcare, been in hundreds of organizations, and spent countless hours with senior leadership teams. I reflected on what I had read; do we change the goal or the performance? To me, this is one of the key characteristics that separates high performing organizations and individuals from those that are not high performing.

High performing organizations do not lower the goal; they increase their performance. They understand this will mean changing actions (behavior).

Other organizations spend their time discussing why they are different and lowering goals to fit their performance.

Which type of organization do you work for? What do you do? Do you change the goal or change your behavior?

I found these to be real gut check questions.

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5 Responses to “Do We Change Goals or Change Actions?”


  1. I could not agree with you more. Our organization, as you are aware, is in the process of changing our healthcare environment from reactive to proactive through Evident-Based Medicine through best practices. The tools your company has partnered with us are EXTREMELY helpful in targeting outcomes management in achieving excellence. Thank you for all you have done in the healthcare industry to lead our nation to reform through leadership!


  2. Interesting…
    Thinking about changing goals (or goalposts) rather than performance I thought of education. I heard on the news several years ago that scores on GRE exams had been dropping and as a result the test standards were being changed. Low and behold a year or so after the change scores were up again.

  3. Marty Gutkin Says:

    Lower performing institutions rationalize their performace, i.e. finding “reasons” or “explanations” for non-attainment of goals. Why? There are probably as many reasons as stars, but one might be…..the team I have in place is my team….their performance negatively reflects my leadership, therefore I need to question the goals, not my leadership. Transference of guilt.

  4. Linda O'Donnell Says:

    For years we have stridently worked to improve our outcomes in healthcare and use goal setting as a way to define and measure our journey. And since a goal is a projected outcome, or a destination, it does not make sense to lower your goals to fit current behavior. In setting goals we are trying to aspire to a new, higher level of behavior, or excellence in care or service, so again lowering goals to meet current behavior is counter productive.

    However, sometimes we find that the goal we have set is not reasonable or attainable in its current form and must be reevaluated and rewritten. No problem there, as long as it is not being rewritten to meet current standards/behavior.

  5. Joan Weissman Says:

    An organization that lowers goals to fit performance would appear to be putting a band aid on the problem and not truly addressing the issues. In order to affect change you must change behaviors and maintain goals in order to increase and/or sustain performance. As a department manager, the thought would not enter my mind to change or lower the goal in order to support poor and/or low performance nor would the organization where I work. The techniques and tools provided by the Studer Group would certainly help an organization that has elected this type of strategy. I know this from experience having worked for an organization that introduced the Studer Group. There was an amazing improvement in leadership roles, increase in satisfaction (employee, patient and physician) and overall employee morale.


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