View All Articles

Time to Set Goals for 2016 and Beyond: What Can We Learn from VW?

By Denise Harrison, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

VW Goals

Goal: Triple sales in the US

Goal: Become the world’s largest automaker

VW achieved these goals in 2015 – was it worth it?

As VW announced its goals, it knew that it would have to be able to meet drivers’ requirements in a way that set it apart from its competition.  What did consumers want?

  • High mileage
  • Low emissions
  • High performance

High mileage and low emissions without sacrificing performance, the holy grail for the automotive industry; and VW had the solution with its diesel vehicles.  Advertising their success in meeting these three requirements led many US car buyers to select VW.  I spoke with one VW buyer who was thoroughly impressed with his SUV’s performance particularly considering the low emissions rating – little did he know it was just a mirage.

When an independent testing organization came up with emission results that were significantly different from VW claims, they went to VW.  At first VW hemmed and hawed and finally came up with a new software package to fix the problem.  Unfortunately the problem that they fixed was not lowering emissions for drivers, just lowering emissions when the software detected that the car was being tested for emissions.  So much for corporate ethics!

What caused this breach of ethics? 

  • Setting goals without balancing them with corporate responsibility and business ethics
  • Denying reality when caught and believing that it was more important to achieve its goals

Important Lesson for this Year’s Goal Setting

As you work on your strategic plan and budgets you will be setting goals.  It is important to have your team reflect not only on financial and market leadership goals, but understand that the end does not justify the means.  “Fudging” to get to goals is detrimental to the organization in the long run.  VW is a great example of where financial and market leadership goals outstripped important ethical considerations.  Be sure that as your team sets goals it considers:

  • Are we doing anything to achieve these goals that will cause us to compromise our ethical standards?
  • Will achieving these goals negatively impact the safety of our employees and customers and/or the environment in which we operate?

Taking a balanced approach to corporate goals and allowing your team to reflect on the implications and the chosen courses of action will help keep your company from copying the spectacular hollow victory achieved by VW, as it became the largest automaker – for two months.

If you are interested in taking your strategic planning to the next level, please listen to our webinar:  Why Isn’t My Strategic Plan Working or contact Denise Harrison; 910-763-5194, harrison@cssp.com .

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

© Copyright 2015 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.