Forward, J., & Zander, A. (1971). Choice of unattainable group goals and effects on performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 6, 184-199.

This study investigated the relative effects of three factors upon the choice of group aspiration:


  1. Members of high-success teams with low need and facing weak opponents/pressures selected group aspirations in line with the mean amount of performance improvement, that is, they make accurate performance estimates.
  2. Members of low success teams with high need and facing strong pressures selected group goals greatly in excess of their mean performance improvement, that is, they overestimate their performance capabilities.
  3. Members of success groups rated their performances higher than members of failing groups.
  4. Members of success groups rated their own individual performance better and accepted more responsibility for the team score than members of failing groups.
  5. Members of success groups attached greater importance to the necessity of setting official team goals than did members of failing groups.
  6. Successful teams performed better than failing teams, and low need teams performed better than high need teams.
  7. Setting unattainable goals not only ensured nominal failure to achieve goals but also has a detrimental effect on actual performance, that is, the team was "self-defeated" before the contest began.

Implications. Four actions are important for keeping any team's goal-orientations in the correct perspective.

  1. Teams should set realistic attainable goals irrespective of the caliber of the competition or the success need of the contest.
  2. Team goals should be evaluated and restructured periodically. When conditions change constantly, such as when playing different opponents on a weekly basis, the goals should be independently structured for each new challenge.
  3. Teams perform better when they face weak external pressures (e.g., from the press, the school, team owners). Goals should only originate from and be relevant to the team members.
  4. Each team member should have his/her own personal goals as well as team goals. This will provide a rich multi-incentive condition.
  5. Team goals should be set in a group-setting with everyone perceiving a valuable contribution to the process.

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