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Unformatted text preview: Chapter 6.1 In early 1969, just as the U.S. was preparing to reach John F. Kennedy's lofty goal of sending Americans to the moon, the famed Ford executive Lee Iacocca gave a similarly ambitious mandate to his team of engineers. Faced for the first time with competition from low-cost, high-mileage foreign imports, Iacocca set a specific target: Ford would design a new automobile that weighed less than 2,000 pounds and sold for under $2,000, and it would be on the showroom floor in time for the 1971 model year. What resulted was a mad dash to create the Ford Pinto. The rush to roll out the Pinto had lethal consequences. Common-sense safety checks took a backseat to meeting Iacocca's deadline. In particular, engineers failed to examine the decision to place the Pinto's fuel tank only 10 inches behind the rear axle. When the Pinto was rear-ended, it often went up in flames. Fiery rear-end crashes caused 53 deaths, numerous injuries and a string of costly lawsuits. It was a valuable lesson about the hazards of setting goals. In pursuit of such mandates, employees will ignore sound business practices, risk the company's reputation and violate ethical standards. This lesson, however, has not been absorbed by corporate America. To the contrary, ambitious goal setting has become endemic in American business practice and scholarship over the last half-century. Goals have pervaded industries as diverse as automotive repair, banking and information systems, even spilling over to the debate on how to improve America's public schools. Yet new research by Wharton operations and information management professor Maurice Schweitzer and three colleagues documents how corporate goal setting can cause more harm than good. The paper, titled "Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting," was co-authored by Lisa D. Ordóñez from the Eller College of Management, University of Arizona; Adam D. Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Max H. Bazerman from the Harvard Business School. Their work appears in the February issue of the Academy of Management Perspectives. "We take a strong stand in this article, because we are pushing against the pervasive use of goal setting in practice and a very large body of literature that has endorsed goal setting. We argue that managers and scholars have grown complacent in their endorsement of goal setting ... often [neglecting] the harmful effects," Schweitzer says. "We argue that goal setting is wildly over-prescribed." The paper is full of cases in which goal setting had negative and sometimes disastrous consequences for...
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- Fall '10
- Maurice Schweitzer