Don’t Listen to Ron Popeil

Ron Popeil is an American inventor and marketer. Maybe his name doesn’t ring a bell, but you know who he is. He is best known for his direct response marketing company Ronco. Perhaps his most famous infomercial is for the Showtime Rotisserie, where he told users to “set it and forget it.”

I don’t have anything against Mr. Popeil. In fact, as an entrepreneur, there is much to admire. But his famous phrase seems to have migrated from cooking chickens in his rotisserie to a common approach to goal setting. Let me explain.

Each year in organizations across the world, senior leaders instruct other leaders to create department, team and individual goals to support the organizational targets. Often significant structure has been created around the format, timing and process for creating these goals. In some organizations, there is even training specifically designed to help the leaders navigate the annual goal-setting process.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of this — I am a big believer in goal setting — there is a huge unintended consequence. When we make the process of goal setting so onerous and structured, we make it feel like a major accomplishment just to set the goals.

You know this is true in your organization if you feel a collective sigh when the department or team goals are turned in. After all, you have just finished a major task! Because of this, people often lose momentum after the goals are set, feeling that that activity itself is half (most?) of the battle.

HR Memos D

Yes we need to set goals.

Yes we need to set them in a way that provides alignment to organizational objectives.

So we need to set them, and then we need to go about the important work of achieving, starting right away to capitalize on the momentum that the goal-setting process (should) provide.

As a leader once they are set, it is time to really get to work. Your goals aren’t a chicken — we can’t “set it and forget it” — we must get to work on accomplishing the goals we set. Chances are, now is a good time for you to hear this message. Unless you already have a great goal-achievement process, you need to start focusing on achieving goals, not just setting them.