S Goal Setting

(goal of shortest schedule)

Goal Setting makes use of the fact that human motivation is the single, strongest contributor to productivity. In Goal Setting, a manager or user simply tells developers what is expected of them.

Because Goal Setting contributes to motivation, developers will generally work hard to achieve a goal of “shortest schedule” (or least risk schedule or most visible progress
or whatever the goal is).

The primary obstacle is an unwillingness to define a small, clear set of goals and commit to them for an entire project.


Top 5 motivation factors


  • Potential reduction from nominal schedule: Very Good
  • Improvement in progress visibility:  None
  • Effect on schedule risk:  Increased Risk
  • Chance of first-time success:  Good
  • Chance of long-term success:  Very Good

Major Risks

  • Significant loss of motivation if goals are changed

Major Interaction and Trade-Offs

  • Provides key support for signing up, timebox development, voluntary overtime and motivation in generals

Successful projects use goal setting to their advantage. Boeing captured its design goals and objectives for the 747s in a book titled Design Objectives and Criteria. If you think goal setting is not critical to the success of a project, consider that Boeing turned down an offer of $100 million from the Soviet government for a copy of that book (Larson and LaFasto 1989).

Be aware that it is possible to go too far in goal setting. If we give a team several objectives at once, it is often not possible for them to do well on all of them. None of the teams in the Weinberg and Schulman study did well on all criteria. A study by ITT found that productivity dropped sharply when multiple goals were present (Vosburg et al. 1984).

Setting too many goals at once is a common problem. For best results, select one objective and make it clear that it is the most important one.

For more information on the importance on goal setting, read the Top 5 motivational factors.