Monday, December 12, 2011

Participatory goal setting for carbon footprints?

I have always been a big advocate of participatory goal setting.  This is when the employee and the boss get together at least once a year to have a deep discussion about what that person’s performance objectives are in terms of personal productivity, teamwork, innovation, self-improvement and so forth.  This conversation is used to set more specific goals for the employee for the year.  Specific, relevant, milestones can be set throughout the year to monitor progress towards the goals.  This way, neither the employer nor the employee get a big surprise at year end.

This tends to work best with employees who have unique job responsibilities (CEO, football quarterback).  When one is a member of a team with similar responsibilities, it is hard to customize different performance goals for different people.  Based on their hopes for the future, one person can push for more advanced skills training while another could push for more current production bonuses.  But it does add a political complication if one feels underappreciated and underrewarded.

So I was very interested to hear a summary of the Durban Conference on Climate Change last night.  I have not read the full documents, but this is how the news summarized the agreement.  Over the next year, every country needs to set a specific goal for its 2020 carbon footprint.  These goals can be different for every country because they all have different needs, environments, economies, cultures, and so on.  So just like custom performance goals work for employees, they are expected to work for countries on their environmental interventions.  One might focus on stopping deforestation or wetland protection.  Another might switch to renewable fuels.  But whatever goals they set for themselves will be legally enforceable (I’m not sure how this part works).

But what incentive is there for any country to set tough goals for itself?  Employees usually get a salary bonus, promotion, or at least an improved resume.  What does a country get?  From what I can see, the conference attendees are hoping that public pressure from each country’s internal population as well as peer pressure from other countries will push them to set appropriate goals.  It is an interesting application of a traditional management technique.