Targets: damned if you do, damned if you don’t

Politics, Knowledge & Migration

It seemed like a good idea at the time. As a government, you wanted to signal your commitment to certain political goals, through binding yourself to a number of public, transparent targets. At the same time, setting a target seemed like an excellent way to galvinize action: it prompted a flurry of activity as ministers and officials attempted to meet the new performance goal. So setting the target was a way of both reassuring the public of how seriously you take this issue, and ratcheting up the pressure on public servants to deliver.

But what happens further down the line? What if you fail to deliver on the promise? Or what if you deliver, but nobody notices? Here are the three possible scenarios for how targets can pan out over time – with lessons for would-be target-setters.

1.            Mission accomplished. Congratulations, you have met your pledge/promise/target. Perhaps it was always…

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