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Goal Setting "A Case Study"

Employees in a large retail store were suffering from lack of motivation. On one particular shift, there had always been some team members that would be shrinking while others had to pick up the slack to get the job done. This would then cause the team members that were performing their job properly to become upset and not motivated because nothing was happening to the team members that were not working as hard.   There was clearly a disconnect between what was expected out of all employees and what was actually being done.

Jim and Carrie always worked hard to fulfill the requirements of the job.  They would stock their share of cases and the work load for the shift was still high even after they did their share.  They noticed that Patty and Brian spent more time doing other things than stocking their share of cases for their shift.

Soon Jim and Carrie were becoming less motivated to work so hard because they felt they were just picking up the other co-workers slack.  The performance levels began to fall for all the employees on the shift and something had to be done. The company would be losing money because then all team members would become unmotivated. The problem that the company was trying to solve was to be able to evaluate each team member to determine their case stocking efficiently.  The company had to create a situation that would motivate all the team members to work to their full potential and motivate the team members to perform more efficiently.

The Strategy

The company began to use a strategy called SMART goal setting. This strategy is an acronym that breaks down into these factors for successful goal setting.

S-Specific: Goals must be specific.  What is expected?

M-Measurable: Goals have to be measurable for feedback.

A-Assignable/ Attainable: the Tasks for the goal must be assignable and achievable.

R-Realistic: Are the abilities and skills available to achieve this goal

T-Time Sensitive: Without a deadline we are less motivated.  Time limits create challenge and produce more effort and structure. (Richmond, 2011)

 The following is a summary of the SMART goal strategy given to correct the problem.

S-Each team member has to increase their case stocking. The company installed a tracking system to allow the management to see how many cases each team member stocked during their shift. The specific goal was to increase the number of cases per hour a stocking team member would stock to the company average of 52 CPH (cases per hour).

M-This was measured by the new system putting a number of cases and time that each team member worked. It was then reported back to management who then has to have one on one meetings with each team member not achieving the company goals. At the start of the program we had to sit down with each team member and tell them what their current CPH was and then what we expected out of them.

A-Each team member was given their own assignment for the day so that we were able to tell exactly how many cases each team member was given. All group projects were taken away and assigned out into individual parts.

R-The goal of 52 CPH was researched and tested in many stores and situations where it was given to the company. We also were to post the name and CPH that the most productive team member hit for the day so it was know that the CPH we were looking for could be achieved. Also during the one on one meetings at the beginning of the program we offered retraining and coaching to help each team member.

T-We were to give watch team member feedback daily. This was shown by posting the top performing team member each day.  Management also began to have one on one feedback sessions for those who were not able to achieve the goals in  order to diagnose the problems and to find solutions that might improve the employees performance.

The Outcome

At first the SMART strategy worked quite well. Carrie and Jim saw that the others were motivated and it boosted their efforts back to where they were before.  They were not only working harder but felt better about it as well.  They enjoyed the challenge, they knew they could achieve it and the feedback was excellent.  Brian and Patty did very well in the beginning as well. There was a huge increase in production and sales within our stores. The team members that were working hard before loved the program because they felt they were acknowledged for their behavior and they knew the others that were not completing their tasks were unable to continue creating more work for them.


The Problem

It didn't take long before the CPH for the employees on that shift began to decrease again.  It seemed that the great SMART goal setting plan was beginning to show flaws.  It was noticed that Patty found ways to cheat the system by distorting her reports on CPH for her shift.  The company again had to find a way to create more excitement and energy for Patty.  She seemed to lack commitment to the goal.

Another issue arrived soon after the implementation of SMART. The retail stores profits fell well below average for the first time. It was learned that those that were highly motivated such as Jim and Carrie were forgetting the other aspects of their job.

It seemed that the employees were focusing all their efforts and focus on attaining the goals set with the company CPH that they spent less attention on customers.

The Solution

 To solve this the company  tried to monitor the sales floor more as managers and coach in the moment for both good and bad behaviors. Another practice the company worked on is prioritizing. 

Management also incorporated sales into their daily feedback.  Employee's sales goals were created and tracked daily.  At the end of every shift managers had one on ones with employees to discuss their overall performance, from stocking, to sales per hour.  This detailed focus on specific employee behaviors helped turn around the performance of Patty and Brian because they accepted their goals and felt that the goals were challenging enough to keep them involved throughout their shift.  The feedback that was provided gave them clear expectations and also served as a constant reminder of how they were doing.   

For Jim and Carrie it was a easy fix for management.  They both were motivated to do an exceptional job at work, but with the switch to the SMART system they felt that the company was clearly putting more emphasis on the stocking and the shift function aspect of the job.  Once management began to track sales and re-aligned their feedback to incorporate sales goals, both Jim and Carrie had improved their sales dramatically.  For Jim and Carrie there was simply a lack of goal specificity.  Once they understood how important their sales goals were to the company their performance increased.

For all of the employees, in order to make sure that they were really connected with their goal, the company used a scale of compilled questions directly concerning the goals. The employees discussed their individual goal with the management in the one-on-one sessions and were given the scale and told to be honest with their answer, that way if they were not willing or did not feel able to achieve the goal that the company could look into changing goals on an individual and company wide basis.

Goal Commiment Scale.

1 It’s hard to take this goal seriously.

2 Quite frankly, I don’t care if I achieve this goal or not.

3 I am strongly committed to pursuing this goal.

4 It wouldn’t take much to make me abandon this goal.

5 I think this is a good goal to shoot for.

(Heslin, Carson, and  VandeWalle, pg. 3) 


Heslin, Peter A. , Jay B. Carson, and Don VandeWalle. "Practical Applications of Goal-Setting Theory to Performance Management ." Goal-Setting Theory . N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Oct. 2011. <>.

Richmond, Annett (2011) A better way to track your progress. Career Intelligence. Retrieved September 30th, 2011 from, 
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