From the Editor

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During a management development discussion about goal setting and the importance of having clear, specific objectives, one first-line manager complained, “My manager ignores my need for goals and objective for my department. How can I know where she wants me to go if she doesn't tell me?” She further wondered what she could do to get her manager to enumerate and explain the expectations placed on her and to provide her with a regularly recurring meeting to review progress.
Another manager in the discussion group said, “Perhaps you should consider what you are doing about goals and objectives for your department. You need some goals and objectives to work toward, and if your manager is not letting you know what's expected of you, then you should be taking steps yourself to determine what you need to be doing.”
It would surely be the best of working worlds if bosses always fully and completely articulated their expectations of subordinate managers and their departments. However, as the saying goes, “The boss ain't always right, but the boss is always the boss.” Managers who may be waiting for such direction might find themselves waiting a long time.
It does not always make sense to wait for higher management to define goals and objective for your department, and it may not be especially helpful to ask directly that it be done. The previously mentioned complaint suggests that a higher manager may be failing to fulfill some responsibilities, and this may indeed be true. However, the department manager has planning and operating responsibilities, and these planning responsibilities include the formulation of goals and objectives.
Take a close look at your job description. Decide what the structure of your job should be relative to what you know about the goals and objective of the organization. Then, develop your own goals and objectives and recommend them to your manager. It is repeatedly proven that objectives are most often met when the people working toward them have had a strong hand in their development. Ownership of an objective, especially through original authorship, is a strong motivating force for the eventual fulfillment of that objective.
In the ideal situation, higher management should expect the department manager to develop his or her own goals and objectives. If such expectations of higher management are nonexistent, the department manager should proceed independently. Objectives should always be reasonable—there should be a fairly good chance of attaining them; realistic—you are reasonably capable of accomplishing what is proposed within the proposed time; and controllable—you command the resources needed to fulfill the objectives. Ideally, every proposed objective should include a clear statement of what is to be done, how much is to be done, and when it will be done.
Having developed your own proposed goals and objectives, next, ask your manager for assistance in refining them to ensure they are consistent with the overall objectives of the organization. If need be, remind your manager, as diplomatically as possible, that you can do your best only if you know at all times where you are supposed to be going and what is expected of you. Even if your manager fails to agree to your objectives and does not work with you to modify them, you are still left with more than you had when you had no objectives at all. You will at least know where you believe you should be going, and that is a large part of the battle.
The keys to dealing with the complaint voiced in the opening paragraph are initiative and diplomacy.
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