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Are Your Goals Causing Bad Behavior?

By Denise Harrison

Strategic Planning Expert
Denise Harrison

Wells Fargo continues to reel from its fraudulent practice of opening accounts for consumers – unbeknownst to the consumer.  To meet their cross-selling goals, individuals at the bank took to opening accounts to make their quota.  Even the homeless were enrolled in fee accruing products.

What happened?

Unreachable goals and reports of these fraudulent activities did not result in a change to the targets, but what were employees to do?  When the bank made no changes to the sales/cross-selling culture, they either had to join the inappropriate behavior or leave the bank.

We saw this same behavior before the 2008 financial crisis where mortgage loans were given to people who could not possibly repay them.  While employees met short-term goals, this behavior put many financial firms in jeopardy and caused many individual consumers to face foreclosure or bankruptcy.

One would think that senior management teams would learn the lessons from these stark examples – but what should you reflect on as you develop goals during strategic planning sessions?

  • Evaluate what is going on externally – are you at the end of a long (but slow) growth cycle? Is it reasonable to think that growth will continue in your industry?  Will you have to rely on gaining market share in order to achieve your growth targets?
  • Are you chasing top-line growth only to lower the margins that you achieve? Are you dropping prices to achieve sales goals, but while achieving sales goals, you are lowering profitability?
  • Are you postponing investment projects that will position your company for long-term success to achieve your short-term targets?
  • Are you using the right metrics – are you measuring success from the customers’ point of view?
  • Are you continuing to invest in employee growth and development or taking a short-cut to achieve your goals?

It is important to understand the behavior that could result from setting goals – if this behavior is not consistent with your company values or causes harm to your customers, you will want to re-visit the goals to ensure you are getting the desired behavior that will generate long-term results rather than the achievement of short-term targets.

If you have questions about strategic planning and how to develop goals please contact me at:

harrison@thestratplan.com or 910-763-5194.

Would you like to learn how to develop goals?  Attend the Simplified Strategic Planning Seminar for in-depth instruction on this subject and more.  Simplified Strategic Planning is a lean, thorough, effective process that has been honed and improved for over 35 years.

Denise Harrison is a senior consultant for the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  She can be reached at  harrison@thestratplan.com.

© Copyright 2017 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.