Saint Lu­cia: What’s Our Goal?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Chris­tian Wayne

Goal-set­ting has played an in­te­gral role both in my per­sonal life and my ca­reer, and pro­vided me with use­ful frame­works for de­con­struct­ing the dif­fer­ent com­po­nents of suc­cess within larger, more com­plex con­structs. As a young boy, I was in­tro­duced to the concept of goal-ori­en­ta­tion vis-à-vis or­ga­nized sports—and have re­mained con­vinced of its ver­sa­til­ity and value. Fol­low­ing a re­cent visit to ROC (Tai­wan), I be­gan to think about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween ef­fec­tive goal-set­ting as, ar­tic­u­lated by the state to its cit­i­zenry, and its po­ten­tial to me­di­ate the achieve­ment of na­tional de­vel­op­ment ob­jec­tives. When I tried to de­fine Saint Lu­cia’s na­tional goals—I drew a blank. I sub­se­quently scoured the In­ter­net for any of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­scrib­ing the gov­ern­ment’s short to midterm goals.

The most rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion I en­coun­tered came out of a “Na­tional Vi­sion Plan” com­mis­sioned in 2003 by the day’s gov­ern­ment. In­cluded in the plan are ren­der­ings of a Vieux Fort cruise port and a Ca­naries coast­line re­de­vel­op­ment project, nei­ther of which have been re­al­ized some 13 years later.

While at­tempt­ing to dig deeper into the po­ten­tial nexus be­tween goal-set­ting and na­tional de­vel­op­ment, I arrived in the realm of in­sti­tu­tional/ or­ga­ni­za­tional psy­chol­ogy. It turns out that mo­ti­va­tional align­ment and goal-set­ting are among the more in­flu­en­tial —if not the most in­flu­en­tial— fac­tors as­so­ci­ated with high-level per­for­mance in the com­ple­tion of com­plex tasks—a claim sup­ported by 25 years of in­dus­trial/ or­ga­ni­za­tional psy­chol­ogy and 400 or so lab­o­ra­tory and field stud­ies de­tailed by Dr. Ed­win Locke and Dr. Gary Latham in the Oc­to­ber 2006 is­sue of Cur­rent Di­rec­tions in Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence.

The sci­en­tific ex­am­i­na­tion of goal set­ting and its im­pact on per­for­mance first gained pop­u­lar­ity in the early 1970s, with many of its most el­e­men­tal works orig­i­nat­ing in the field of ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­ogy. After emerg­ing as an im­por­tant the­o­ret­i­cal per­spec­tive in the study of achieve­ment-be­hav­ior among school stu­dents and aca­demic per­for­mance, goal-ori­en­ta­tion the­ory even­tu­ally piqued the in­ter­ests of the in­sti­tu­tional/ or­ga­ni­za­tional psy­chol­o­gist com­mu­nity—where its the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work prompted ex­ten­sive re­search and the pub­lish­ing of sev­eral in­trigu­ing stud­ies in the early 2000s.

Goal-ori­en­ta­tion is es­sen­tially the dis­po­si­tion of an in­di­vid­ual or a group to­wards de­vel­op­ing or demon­strat­ing abil­ity in achieve­ment set­tings. How­ever, to un­der­stand the ba­sic prop­er­ties of goal- ori­en­ta­tion the­ory and its ef­fec­tive ap­pli­ca­tion in dif­fer­ent achieve­ment-sit­u­a­tions, it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand how goals are con­cep­tu­al­ized in the re­search lit­er­a­ture. Broadly speak­ing, there are two types of goals: mas­tery goals and per­for­mance goals. Mas­tery goal ori­en­ta­tion refers to an in­di­vid­ual’s pur­pose of de­vel­op­ing com­pe­tence, or mas­ter­ing the task at hand. Mas­tery-ori­ented stu­dents fo­cus on learn­ing, un­der­stand­ing, de­vel­op­ing skills, and mas­ter­ing in­for­ma­tion. More gen­er­ally, mas­tery goal ori­en­ta­tion can be said to re­fer to a pur­pose of per­sonal de­vel­op­ment and growth that guides achieve­ment-re­lated be­hav­ior.

In con­trast, whereas mas­tery goal ori­en­ta­tion refers to the pur­pose of de­vel­op­ing com­pe­tence, per­for­mance goal ori­en­ta­tion refers to the pur­pose of demon­strat­ing com­pe­tence. Per­for­mance-ori­ented in­di­vid­u­als fo­cus on man­ag­ing the im­pres­sions that oth­ers have of their abil­ity: at­tempt­ing to cre­ate an im­pres­sion of high abil­ity and avoid cre­at­ing im­pres­sions of low abil­ity.

In Locke and Latham’s sum­mary of goal-ori­en­ta­tion re­search, they note that much of the find­ings fall roughly along eight cat­e­gories—three of which will be in­tro­duced here: Fram­ing; Group goals; and Macro-level goals. The concept of fram­ing is well known in psy­chol­ogy; one way of think­ing about fram­ing is in terms of gains ver­sus loss. Whether a per­son views a high goal as a chal­lenge ver­sus a threat makes a dif­fer­ence for that per­son’s per­for­mance. Ac­cord­ing to stud­ies by Za­havy and Erez (2002), those who framed the goal in terms of fail­ure achieved sig­nif­i­cantly lower lev­els of per­for­mance than did those who were made to fo­cus on the use­ful­ness of ef­fort. Part of what makes the fu­sion of goal-ori­en­ta­tion and na­tional de­vel­op­ment such a fas­ci­nat­ing blend, as the re­search af­firms, is that goal set­ting can be just as use­ful within groups as among in­di­vid­u­als. How­ever, groups add an ad­di­tional layer of com­plex­ity, as there’s al­ways the po­ten­tial for con­flict among var­i­ous group mem­bers. Stud­ies show that hav­ing high per­sonal goals that are com­pat­i­ble with the group’s en­hances over­all group per­for­mance—whereas hav­ing per­sonal goals that are in­com­pat­i­ble with the group’s goal has a detri­men­tal ef­fect on how well the group per­forms.

An­other el­e­ment of group goals is that when goal vi­sion is com­mon among group mem­bers, they tend to share use­ful in­for­ma­tion with one an­other, lead­ing to bet­ter per­for­mance in com­plex task man­age­ment. Though there is lit­tle pri­mary re­search on the ef­fects of goal-set­ting on na­tional de­vel­op­ment ob­jec­tive achieve­ments, we’ve seen goal-ori­en­ta­tion re­search be ex­pounded upon from the group level to the or­ga­ni­za­tional level. In a particularly in­ter­est­ing six-year, lon­gi­tu­di­nal study of the per­for­mance of small- ven­ture en­trepreneurs (the most im­por­tant driv­ers of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment), re­searchers found that growth goals, along with self-ef­fi­cacy, and or­ga­ni­za­tional vi­sion, were able to sig­nif­i­cantly pre­dict fu­ture growth. Th­ese three mo­ti­va­tors almost en­tirely me­di­ated the ef­fect of fu­ture growth on the two per­son­al­ity traits of pas­sion for the work and tenac­ity.

Ad­di­tion­ally, a goal, once ac­cepted and un­der­stood, re­mains in the pe­riph­ery of con­scious­ness as a ref­er­ence point for guid­ing and giv­ing mean­ing to sub­se­quent men­tal and phys­i­cal ac­tions. There are also re­lated find­ings sug­gest­ing that even goals that are sub­con­sciously primed (and par­tic­i­pants re­port no aware­ness of the primed mo­tive) af­fect per­for­mance. Suf­fice to say, goal set­ting can be a pow­er­ful force in any do­main as long as an in­di­vid­ual or group has some con­trol over the out­come. It’s been ap­plied in nu­mer­ous con­texts out­side of aca­demic and work­place per­for­mance, in fields rang­ing from re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion to sports per­for­mance, and can be ap­plied in nu­mer­ous other set­tings. Goal-ori­en­ta­tion re­mains an open-the­ory, mean­ing that there is vir­tu­ally no limit on the num­ber of in­te­gra­tions and com­bi­na­tions that can be made be­tween seem­ingly un­re­lated fields— such as devel­op­men­tal eco­nom­ics, for ex­am­ple. Though not every na­tion shares the ex­act same ex­pe­ri­ence, the de­vel­op­ment jour­neys of cer­tain Cen­tral- Eastern Euro­pean coun­tries such as Slove­nia and Es­to­nia, as well as the Asian Tiger coun­tries such as ROC (Tai­wan) would be in­ter­est­ing mod­els to in­form our in­di­vid­ual de­vel­op­ment tra­jec­tory. Of course, an im­por­tant first step be­fore em­bark­ing on such an in­tel­lec­tu­ally stim­u­lat­ing ex­er­cise would be to squarely ask: What are Saint Lu­cia’s goals?

Aerial view of the pro­posed Ca­naries coast­line re­de­vel­op­ment project—part of the Fi­nance Min­istry’s 2003 Na­tional Vi­sion Plan.

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