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What is Management by Objectives (MBO)?

14 min read

management by objectives

Imagine this: you are starting as the manager of a new team. What would your first step be? 

Understand your teammates, know their strengths and weaknesses, and align them with the overall objectives. 

But how do you quantify your success? 

The technique Management by Objectives (MBO) can be an effective solution to your question. 

 Too many questions popping in your head? 

Well, dive into this blog, to know all the nitty-gritties of Management by Objectives, and how it will help your organization explore its true potential. 

What is Management by Objectives? 

Management by Objectives, commonly abbreviated as MBO, is a top-down management technique to set specific and achievable objectives for the organization within a given time frame 

Management by objectives is regarded as a system for improving performance, both of the individual managers and the enterprise as a whole by setting objectives at the corporate, departmental, and individual manager’s level.

Peter F. Drucker 

It is a holistic tool that helps improve the overall efficiency and productivity of the organization by clearly defining the objectives agreed by both the parties (i.e., top management and employees).

Management by objectives is a result-centered, non-specialist, operational managerial process for the effective utilization of material, physical and human resources of the organization by integrating the individual with the organization and organization with the environment.

S.K. Chakravarty

MBO ensures the organization’s continuous improvement by regularly evaluating the performance standards and gathering feedback from various stakeholders. 

Management by Objectives in 5 Simple Steps 

You plan to implement MBO in your organization, but is a lingering doubt creeping in – is it too complicated? 

No, it’s simpler than decoding the recipe of a three-ingredient cookie. 

Here are 5 simple steps to implement an effective MBO process in your organization: 

  1. Define organizational and employee objectives 
  2. Monitor performance and progress continuously 
  3. Evaluate performance 
  4. Provide effective feedback 
  5. Reward employees

mbo process

1. Define organizational and employee objectives 

Top management establishes the core objectives of an organization in the form of mission, vision statements and core values. They also set the future roadmaps by defining the annual, half-yearly, and quarterly objectives. 

After effectively communicating the objectives across the organization, the departmental heads collaborate with employees to set departmental and individual goals aligned with overall objectives. 

2. Monitor performance and progress continually 

This is the most essential step in the process, as it helps management identify the small inefficiencies through: 

  • Comparing outcomes with pre-defined objectives. 
  • Measuring individual and team performance. 
  • Installing effective control points across defined processes. 
  • Crafting sound organizational structure for overall efficiency. 

3. Evaluate performance 

The managers concerned evaluate individual departments’ performance, while the top management conducts the overall performance evaluation of the organization. 

 4. Provide effective feedback 

Continuous feedback is one of the core components of the MBO program. This helps individuals to monitor and correct their actions to achieve desirable results. Giving feedback using techniques like SWOT analysis and the SBI-I model enhances the effectiveness of the process. 

5. Reward employees 

Performance appraisal is the last stage of the process. Under this, the performance of individuals and departments is reviewed, and the stakeholders are fairly rewarded for their hard work, contribution, and performance. 

Thus, MBO is one of the most effective techniques to ensure the long-term viability and stability of the organization in an ever-evolving environment. 

Features of MBO 

mbo features

The five key ingredients of MBO are: 

  1. Goal orientation 
  2. Key result areas (KRAs) 
  3. Multiple accountability 
  4. Simplicity and Dynamism 
  5. Comprehensive 

1. Goal Orientation 

The primary focus of MBO is to determine the individual goals and align them with the overall organizational goals. This helps organizations balance their long-term objectives with their employees’ objectives.  

2. Key Results Areas (KRAs) 

MBO emphasizes on performance improvement in the critical areas of the organization. Identifying the KRAs helps ensure the prioritized areas receive due importance and significantly impact on the organization’s performance and growth. 

3. Multiple Accountability 

MBO helps ensure that the accountability of a particular objective doesn’t fall under a single head; instead, it’s dispersed across multiple departments. This helps in establishing a decentralized planning system with centralized control and accountability helps overcome ‘credit grabbing’ and ‘employee burnout’ challenges. 

4. Simplicity and Dynamism 

MBO has a universal appeal and can be used by organizations across industries, market conditions, geographic locations, or leadership types. Hence, it is a non-specialist technique utilized by either small or large organizations. 

5. Comprehensive 

MBO is a comprehensive approach combining financial and human aspects, micro-level analysis, and macro-level planning. This helps firms manage their long-term and short-term goals with ease. 

Advantages of Management by Objectives 

mbo benefits

The benefits associated with the process of MBO can be categorized under three heads: 

  • Benefits offered to the organization 
  • Benefits offered to superiors 
  • Benefits offered to subordinates 

 1. Benefits to Organization 

MBO offers the following benefits to an organization: 

  • It helps improve the organization’s overall output quality by stressing managerial efficiency. 
  • An increased focus on the objectives helps improve the coordination among departments, leading to the optimum utilization of resources. 
  • Periodic review helps identify the weaknesses in the processes, leading to workers utilizing their complete potential. 
  • Multiple accountability centers lead to greater decentralization in objective setting and alignment of individual and overall goals. 

2. Benefits to superiors 

MBO offers several advantages to the superiors, a few of them are: 

  • It strengthens the superior-subordinate relationship, resulting in a positive work environment. 
  • It encourages collaborative goal setting, enhancing employee motivation and loyalty. 
  • It offers an unbiased review system promoting fair work conditions and higher levels of employee retention. 

 3. Benefits to subordinates 

MBO helps subordinates or the employees in the following ways: 

  • It ensures greater role clarity and a transparent performance review system, boosting job satisfaction. 
  • Regular performance review motivates the high performers to continue their efforts and identify areas of improvement. 
  • It also brings self-accountability among employees as they can decide their objectives. 

Thus, MBO is an effective technique that helps organizations achieve their goals within a limited time.

Limitations of MBO

While MBO is an impactful technique, it indeed has certain flaws. The common limitations of MBO are: 

  • Organizations face difficulties in defining the objectives of every department and individual. 
  • The difference in the status quota of various job roles hinders the open atmosphere for objectives discussions. 
  • It leads to excessive paperwork and documentation, limiting progress towards goals. 
  • It limits the flexibility of the organization as every small change in objective needs to be communicated, making quick decision-making difficult. 

Management by Objectives (MBO) Best Practices 

Here are five of the best practices to implement an efficient MBO process in your organization: 

  • Setting clear and specific objectives 
  • Encouraging employee involvement 
  • Aligning individual and organizational goals 
  • Conducting regular performance reviews 
  • Implementing a feedback and recognition channel.

1. Setting clear and specific objectives 

The backbone of a successful MBO plan is setting clear and specific objectives. Organizations should explicitly communicate the results with every department to ensure every individual has a clear understanding of expectations. 

Bonus Tip:

Encourage the use of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals.

2. Encouraging employee involvement

Involving employees in the decision-making process helps develop a sense of ownership, fostering stronger bonds and commitment. It also helps in collaborative work environments, enhancing productivity and output quality. 

Bonus Tip:
Promote regular one-on-one meetings between managers and employees during goal-setting process.

3. Aligning individual and organizational goals 

Aligning the individual objectives with the overall organizational objectives fosters a sense of purpose and commitment from employees. It also leads to coordinated and focused corporate efforts. 

Bonus Tip:

Clearly communicate the organizational goals and link the individual objectives to a broader spectrum.

4. Conducting regular performance reviews 

Regular reviews help managers assess their team’s progress, identify the common challenges and provide effective feedback. Regular check-ins also allow managers to track the progression of their team objectives and make timely adjustments.

Bonus Tip:

Schedule regular meetings and provide constructive feedback using the SBI-I model.

5. Implementing a feedback and recognition channel 

Recognizing employees’ efforts enhances productivity, output quality, and morale. Recognition can take forms like verbal praise, awards, or monetary incentives. 

Bonus Tip:

Foster a feedback culture and publicly recognize the employee efforts.

What is an example of MBO? 

MBO is a global phenomenon, and many large MNCs already use it. Its influence started in India in the 1970s. The systematic emergence of MBO in Indian corporates began when the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, organized a seminar on the topic.  

Indian companies that have shown instances of successful implementation of MBO are: 

  • BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electronics Limited) 
  • Grind Lays Bank 
  • Blue Star 
  • Shaw Wallace and  
  • Glaxo India Limited 

Glaxo India Limited introduced the concept of MBO in 1973. The company set objectives at the corporate, departmental, and divisional levels. Initially, they witnessed specific challenges, but the top management’s commitment to the program bore fruit, and they witnessed a streamlined process and enhanced levels of output quality. 

What is the difference between Management by Objectives (MBO) and Management by Exception (MBE)? 

The terms, while sounding similar, have the following distinctions: 

Aspect Management by Objectives (MBO) Management by Exception (MBE) 
Definition It’s a goal-oriented management approach, where goals are collaboratively set, and progress is regularly monitored. It’s a management approach where employees work at their own pace, and management intervenes when results don’t match the expectations. 
Goal setting Collaborative goal setting between managers and employees. Predetermined standards and managerial intervention on deviations. 
Involvement Active employee involvement Limited involvement, decisions by top management. 
Flexibility Adjusted due to changing circumstances. Less flexible and sticking to pre-defined standards. 
Monitoring Regular monitoring of goal progression. Monitoring only at the times of deviations. 
Decision-making Collective decision-making during goal setting. High-level management is the final decision-maker. 
Applicability Dynamic environment Stable environment 

Wrapping it Up 

Thus, MBO is one of the most efficient methods utilized by organizations to set achievable objectives and measure the output, productivity, and efficiency for the entire firm. Keka assists in strengthening the entire process with its features like OKR setting, one-on-one feedback sessions, and regular monitoring through pulse surveys. 

So, take a free trial today and implement this technique with ease in your organization today! 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

1. What is Management by Objectives (MBO)? 

Management by Objectives (MBO) can be defined as a goal-oriented approach where specific and measurable objectives are collectively set, monitored, and reviewed to enhance overall performance. 

2. Who started MBO? 

Peter Drucker first introduced the concept of MBO in his book, “The Practice of Management” (1954). 

3. What are the 4 steps of the MBO process? 

The four steps of the MBO process are goal setting, planning, monitoring progress, and performance appraisal, which helps enhance organizational effectiveness. 

4. What is the process of MBO? 

The MBO process involves setting clear objectives, aligning them with individual objectives, regular performance monitoring, and providing feedback and recognition. 

5. What are the features of MBO? 

Collaborative goal setting, clear alignment with organizational goals, regular performance reviews, and employee involvement are the key features of MBO. 

6. Why is MBO important? 

MBO is crucial for aligning organizational and departmental goals, promoting employee commitment, and enhancing the organization’s overall productivity. 

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    Meet the author

    Anwesha Panja

    Content Writer

    Anwesha Panja is a Content Writer at Keka Technologies. She has a passion for crafting captivating pieces around the latest HR trends. With a love for mysterious and spine-tingling things, she spends her free time exploring haunted locations. She is also a bookworm and an avid Sherlock fan.

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