I preach a lot about connecting communication strategy and implementation to corporate goals. It’s a drum I beat nearly constantly. But, what do we do when the corporate goal is poorly designed, even irrational?

A new study titled Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting, published in the Academy of Management Perspectives and featured on Knowledge@Wharton, shows that poorly planned corporate goals lead to bad behavior. So, what do we do when we’re trying to connect communication to bad corporate goals?

I say look beyond the bad goal to what may drive success. If the goal is narrowly focused on revenue with complete disregard for safety, broaden the communication perspective to focus on how safety can drive the revenue, or on other factors that will drive the revenue, such as innovation, relationships and improved customer support. Where we can move beyond a bad goal, we’ll not only drive more positive behaviors in employees, but may help leadership see the error of their goal-setting ways.

We have several clients right now who focus their goals in part on innovation. I love this one for communication because we can pursue real action on the goal and positive culture change at the same time. It’s also an important reason to expand efforts around collaboration and social networking. To come up with truly innovative ideas that turn into new products, patents, or category-leading services requires a whole lot of ideas. And that requires more dialog and conversation than most organizations engage in today.

So, if the bad goal is “create two new products a quarter” – really horrible short-term focus on irrational numbers– then let us, the communicators, focus employees on innovation. Perhaps, we can refocus our leaders on the foundational goal as well.