Researchers have conducted some interesting new work on goal-setting and achievement. Insights by Stanford Business summarizes the findings of research conducted by Szu-chi Huang, Liyin Jin,, and Ying Zhang:
New research by Szu-chi Huang, assistant professor of marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business, finds that while people benefit from concentrating on small “sub-goals” in the early stages of a pursuit, they should focus instead on the larger objective in the late stages. That notion could be important to any business that entices consumers and employees to set goals, whether as part of an incentive program or service offered.
“When you are just starting a pursuit, feeling reassured that it’s actually doable is important, and achieving a sub-goal increases that sense of attainability,” Huang says. But later, people are no longer concerned about attainment and need to feel that their actions continue to be worthwhile in order to maintain motivation. “At that point, to avoid coasting and becoming distracted, they need to focus on that final goal to see value in their actions,” Huang says.
The research appears very consistent with the work on small wins. You need to have those sub-goals, because small wins are important during any transformation process or challenging task. However, you need to have the broader vision as well. This work adds nicely to our understanding of how small wins work by describing the important shift that has to happen over time from small sub-goals to broader objective.