A Question of Performance Management: Positive and Realistic

The Angolan managers face today, some entrepreneurial challenges whose resolution is not always easy. The reconciliation of short-term results with future development is one of the classic problems of management but that proves to be crucial in a country that grows at the rate that grows Angola. The Angolan manager must have a focus on immediate results and at the same time, in future plans. Managing for the present without considering the future is a temptation in a world focused on short-term business. But it carries a risk: not ensure survival, or development in the medium or long term. Hide the difficulties present on behalf of a vision for the future can be an alternative. But it also carries risks: to make available to a future potential, but which can not be reached because they were neglected the demands of the present. Consider both temporal planes may be more difficult, but it is the only sustainable option.

The importance of goals

To understand this, it is important to remember one of the most important and tested management techniques motivation: setting goals. When used with “correct measurements”, the definition of objectives has a powerful effect on people’s behavior: it increases the effort, directs attention, suggests the adoption of new strategies and reduces behavioral procrastination.

The correct measurements are usually presented with the acronym SMART. There are multiple versions of the meaning of SMART goals, but one of the possible states that SMART stands for: Stretching, i.e. demanding, “stretched”; Measurable; Attainable, i.e. achievable; Rewarded; Timed, i.e. with a clear deadline.

Why is the definition of objectives so powerful? First: objectives “stretched” constitute a test of individual ability. They are challenging, put their individual skills to the test. Second: being measurable, it is possible to say clearly whether they have been achieved. They are also guiding the action. Third: the goals must be achievable. If they are too demanding and / or unrealistic, will be rejected and / or taken as insulting. Fourth: to encourage people to pursue goals, it is necessary that its scope is rewarded. Fifth: schedule to achieve the goals, individuals focus their efforts more and do not procrastinate.

Therefore, instead of recommending people to vague goals or “do your best”, it aims to challenge them moderately difficult, perceived as achievable, specific and quantitative desirably.

The limitations of the goals

Despite the motivational power of goal setting, it is necessary to carefully consider any potential negativity in setting goals.

By focusing people in a goal, can decrease the likelihood of the awareness of the importance of other relevant processes. For example, if you are assessed by the speed with which it does its administrative work, the reader will “lose” time to answer phone calls from customers “uncomfortable”? Ethical values can be temporarily “suspended” so that an objective can be achieved. Sometimes, people do not look at the means to achieve the goals – since they are assessed by the extent of the goals and not by the ethical correction that reach.

When a worker has to learn a complex task, their attention should be focused on learning and do not own other goals. Under these conditions, the introduction of goals is a distraction that tends to hurt performance.

These points do not become less relevant to goal setting. Only alert managers to the need to ensure the likelihood of effects “co-lateral”.

The importance of developing

Goals are important because they focus attention on the short term. But it is crucial to add tools that bridge between the past and present toward a desired future. They are fundamental tools for growth. These processes – feedback and feedforward – seek to ensure that the focus on short-term do not sacrifice the acquisition of skills necessary for a viable future.

Accordingly, organizations can consider not only the achievement of goals but also improving and learning, i.e., training to achieve future goals. Once introduced a logic of management by objectives, this tends to become more routine. Routines are important and necessary, but must contain mechanisms for learning and innovation.

Examples of mechanisms that provide feedback are coaching or mentoring processes, able to use information about past performance, positive and negative, for learning purposes. One of the most important functions of managers is tutorial: it is for them to provide their employees plenty of feedback so that they can better understand their strengths and weaknesses.


One of the most powerful ways of managing motivation is to manage by objectives. But to work properly, it must be balanced with a focus on the future. Neglecting one dimension or another is a risk that every leader runs for his own risk. Leading positively implies therefore a virtuous combination of dream and reality: dream “down to earth” and not let realism cannibalize the imagination. In the absence of either focus, the organization loses concentration and energy (in the absence of goal setting systems) and loses hope and transforming capacity resulting from a positive vision of the future. And an organization without direction is not necessarily better than an organization without hope – and vice versa.


Written by Miguel Pina e Cunha, Professor at the Nova School of Business and Economics and Angola Business School