Here is just some of the compelling research to back up the concept of goal setting:
"Employees whose manager involves them in goal setting are four times more likely to be engaged than other employees."
"...setting challenging, specific goals leads to higher performance than urging people to do their best, and that this positive effect is present in both self-set and assigned goals as well as individual and group goals. The theory is confirmed by hundreds of high quality empirical studies and can therefore be regarded as one of the most ‘evidence-based’ interventions in organisation and people management."
"Evidence for the basic principles of goal setting is strong and plentiful. Studies conducted in many settings across many occupations have replicated the basic findings. As evidence for HR practices goes it just doesn’t get any better. No debunking needed. Here’s a practice that actually really works."
However, as the CIPD's report concludes:
"...goal setting should not be used as a one-size fits-all, over-the-counter treatment to boost performance, as there are several moderators that affect the outcome".
These include goal attribute, type of task, organisational context and employee characteristics.
So, while research suggests that people who set specific goals can expect performance increases, goal setting needs to be done in the right way.