“The proper way to use objectives is the way an airline uses schedules and flight plans.” Management, Drucker. 1974.
While teaching ‘how to use objectives’, Drucker exposed the tension in between be resolute and remain flexible. I believe that the solution is that: a) there are three categories of objectives; b) each category should be managed by one of the three levels of a flat organization; c) there is a succession that should be respected; d) specialty is required; e) information flow is essential; f) the system has to be moment-of-truth proof (like Jan Carlson, 1987).
Three categories: long, mid and short-term objectives – purpose & directives, objectives & goals, and procedures & parameters, respectively. Three levels: basic or tactical manages purpose & directives, mid or strategic manages objectives & goals, and utmost or operational manages procedures & parameters. Succession: purpose & directives establishes a base for strategies & goals that, in turn, propel procedures & parameters. Specialty: People in the structure must be specialized and able to manage their own category, not interfering in other levels specialty. Information flow: every level is responsible to communicate broad purpose/ objectives/ procedures forward, to the next level, and feedback backward, to previous level (even the utmost level to and from the market). Proof: that few moments when the client is in contact with the product/ service offered have to demonstrate quality in fulfillment of purpose/ objectives/ procedures.
Airlines will define and communicate purpose & directives; Operations managers will set and communicate objectives & goals; Pilots will choose procedures & parameters. Each one of them will also give feedback. Then objectives will degenerate into work, not worthless intentions or harmful straitjackets. Objectives will be direction, not fate. Just as Drucker wanted.