A Review of Research
on the Application of
Goal Setting in Organizations^
GARY P. LATHAM
GARY A. YUKL
City University of New York
Research on goal setting in organizations is reviewed
in order to evaluate Locke's theory of goal setting and to
determine the practical feasibility of this technique for
increasing employee motivation and performance. An
attempt is made to identify limiting conditions, moderator
variables, and promising directions for future research.
Locke's (36) theory of goal setting deals with the relationship between
conscious goals or intentions and task performance. The basic premise of
the theory is that an individual's conscious intentions regulate his actions.
A goal is defined simply as what the individual is consciously trying to do.
According to the theory, hard goals result in a higher level of performance
than do easy goals, and specific hard goals result in a higher level of performance than do no goals or a generalized goal of "do your best." In addition, the theory states that a person's goals mediate how performance is
affected by monetary incentives, time limits, knowledge of results (i.e., performance feedback), participation in decision making, and competition.
Goals that are assigned to a person (e.g., by a supervisor) have an effect on
behavior only to the degree that they are consciously accepted by the person.
Thus, Locke states, "It is not enough to know that an order or request was
made; one has to know whether or not the individual heard it and understood it, how he appraised it, and what he decided to do about it before its
effects on his behavior can be predicted and explained" (36, p. 174).
Gary P. Latham (Ph.D.—University of Akron) is Manager and Staff Psychologist of
Human Resource Research in the Weyerhaeuser Company, Tacoma, Washington.
Gary A. Yukl (Ph.D.—University of California, Berkeley) is Associate Professor of Management, Baruch College, City...