Book Review: Robert Mager’s Goals Analysis



We just read Robert Mager’s Goals Analysis, one of six books in the classic “Mager’s Six Pack” series. In this article, we’ll give you a short book review. We have another article if you’d like to study his goals analysis method in more detail.

Before we begin, know that this is part of a series of articles looking at the books and ideas in Mager’s Six Pack. So far, we’ve also got articles on the following:

With that out of way, let’s get to this book review.

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Mager’s Goals Analysis and “Fuzzies”

So what’s it about, you ask? The basic idea is this. First, Mager says that when we create goals, we often create abstract goals and as a result it’s impossible to later know if you’ve definitely met them. For example, maybe you want to be a “better person,” or a “lean company,” or a “safe company,” or maybe you want “efficient workers.”

Mager calls all these vague, abstract goals “fuzzies.” They’re fuzzy because no two people can agree that the goal has definitely been met. There’s no obvious, specific criteria against which real-world behavior can be compared to see if the behavior meets the goal.

As you may have guessed, Mager says we shouldn’t have fuzzy goals. Instead, he wants us to set concrete, specific goals. The kind of goals that make it easy to tell if someone has met them. So instead of being a better person, maybe you want to donate to charity five times a year. Instead of being a lean company, maybe you want to reduce operational waste by 20 percent. Instead of being a safe company, maybe you want to reduce your injury and illness rate by 50 percent. And instead of having efficient workers, maybe you want your workers to produce 10 percent more.

Note that all of these more concrete goals have something in common: they’re actual performances.

How to Recognize Fuzzy Goals

Now that Mager’s given you a goal–to write concrete goals instead of fuzzy goals–he starts to give you a method. First, he tells you how to determine if you’ve got a fuzzy goal.

Basically, this boils down to asking one question. In Mager’s own words, this question is:

“Is there a single behavior or class of behaviors that will indicate the presence of the alleged performance, about which there would be general agreement?”

If you answer “no” to the question above, you’ve got yourself a fuzzy. If you answer “yes,” you’ve got a goal. As is true in many of Mager’s books, this book gives you practice exercises and checklists to help you see if you can do this.

Writing Performance-Based Goals

Next, Mager gives a five-step method for creating concrete, performance-based goals. We’ve covered that method in more detail in our other article about this book, but here’s the big-picture, bird’s-eye view.

  1. Write down the goal
  2. Write down everything a person would have to do for you to agree that he or she has met the goal
  3. Review the items you listed in step 2 and revise
  4. Write a complete sentence that describes each of the items on your list after step 3
  5. Test the sentences you wrote in step 4 to make sure they’re complete

Great. But How Was the Book?

Now that you know what the book’s about and have a general idea of Mager’s method, we can turn to the interesting part of a book review. What kind of book was it? Was it helpful and informative? Was it a fun read?

Along those lines, it had a lot in common with other Mager books I’ve read. First, it was short. My copy has 138 pages. Second, it was fun to read. It included sections where Mager would pose a question, the reader would answer, and you’ve proceed to one page or another depending on the answer you chose. Third, it had a lot of built-in practice exercises, checklists, and diagrams. And finally, it was written in the conversational, joking style that Mager uses in all his books.

So, all told, was it a worthwhile book to read? Yep. Check it out if you get a chance.


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