Do you get overwhelmed at the beginning of a project? Do you struggle to boost team productivity?
The secret to alleviating common project challenges is to set specific goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are designed to provide structure and guidance throughout a project, and better identify what you want to accomplish. This method is especially effective in helping employees set goals that align with company.
What Are S.M.A.R.T. Goals?
S.M.A.R.T. goals are a relatively new idea. In 1981, George T. Doran, a consultant and former director of corporate planning for Washington Water Power Company, published a paper called, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” In the document, he introduces S.M.A.R.T. goals as a tool to create criteria to help improve the chances of succeeding in accomplishing a goal.
The acronym stands for:
S – Specific
When setting a goal, be specific about what you want to accomplish. Think about this as the mission statement for your goal. This isn’t a detailed list of how you’re going to meet a goal, but it should include an answer to the popular ‘w’ questions:
M – Measurable
What metrics are you going to use to determine if you meet the goal? This makes a goal more tangible because it provides a way to measure progress. If it’s a project that’s going to take a few months to complete, then set some milestones by considering specific tasks to accomplish.
A – Achievable
This focuses on how important a goal is to you and what you can do to make it attainable and may require developing new skills and changing attitudes. The goal is meant to inspire motivation, not discouragement. Think about how to accomplish the goal and if you have the tools/skills needed. If you don’t currently possess those tools/skills, consider what it would take to attain them.
R – Relevant
Relevance refers focusing on something that makes sense with the broader business goals. For example, if the goal is to launch a new product, it should be something that’s in alignment with the overall business objectives. Your team may be able to launch a new consumer product, but if your company is a B2B that is not expanding into the consumer market, then the goal wouldn’t be relevant.
T – Time-Bound
Anyone can set goals, but if it lacks realistic timing, chances are you’re not going to succeed. Providing a target date for deliverables is imperative. Ask specific questions about the goal deadline and what can be accomplished within that time period. If the goal will take three months to complete, it’s useful to define what should be achieved half-way through the process. Providing time constraints also creates a sense of urgency.
The Easiest Way to Write S.M.A.R.T. Goals
When it comes to writing S.M.A.R.T. goals, be prepared to ask yourself and other team members a lot of questions. The answers will help fine-tune your strategy, ensuring the goals are something that’s actually attainable. While you should be as realistic as possible, it’s important to approach writing S.M.A.R.T. goals with a positive attitude. After all, this is something that you want to achieve.
Here are two examples of initial goals we'll use to walk through this process:
This is a typical approach to creating goals, but both of these are very vague. With the current wording, the goals probably aren’t going to be attainable. The statements lack specifics, timelines, motivation, and a reality check.
Now, let’s use the S.M.A.R.T. goals formula to clarify both and create new and improved goals.
Goal: I want to complete a project
Goal: I want to improve my performance
Once you go through and write your goals according to each S.M.A.R.T. characteristic, you can then combine and consolidate all the work you’ve done into one S.M.A.R.T. goal.
Establishing Clarity Around Success and Failure
Just like everything else in business, S.M.A.R.T. goals can change. Someone might ask you to write a SMARTER Goal. This acronym adds Evaluate and Re-Do. The idea behind this is you should constantly be evaluating your goals and re-setting them as needed. Company directions change, personal goals evolve, so maybe a goal you set six months ago no longer makes sense.
Whether you write S.M.A.R.T. or SMARTER goals, you’ll find that having some clarity about what you want to achieve can make all the difference between success and failure.