The Stretch Goal Paradox

Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller, and Kelly E. See
Harvard Business Review,  JVol. 95, Issue 1, Pages: 93-99

What executive hasn’t dreamed of transforming an organization by achieving seemingly impossible goals through the sheer force of will? We’re not talking about merely challenging goals. We’re talking about management moon shots—goals that appear unattainable given current practices, skills, and knowledge. In the parlance of the business world, these are often referred to as stretch goals. Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. Before launching stretch goals in sales, production, quality, or any other realm, how can you be confident that your grand aspirations will trigger positive attitudes and actions rather than negative ones? We focus on providing clear guidelines for assessing when stretch goals do and do not make sense, and when to employ them rather than set more achievable objectives.