SMART goals

We all know that every project should have goals, as should every business. It can also be a good thing to have goals in our personal life. Goals give us focus and help us to achieve a desired end point.

At the end of the day we all like to feel as though we have achieved something positive, and to not feel as though we’ve wasted our time. We can easily feel positive even if we don’t have any goals set because we’ve enjoyed what we’ve done, spent time with people we get on with or got something difficult or challenging out of the way. However, having goals to work towards helps with keeping us motivated, particularly when we are struggling. Goals help to give a team a single focal point and give them something to celebrate when the goals are achieved.

SO WHY ARE SMART GOALS DIFFERENT TO OTHER GOALS?

The answer is that they aren’t necessarily any different. They are simply carefully thought through.

SMART stands for:

  • specific
  • measurable
  • attainable
  • realistic
  • time bound

We’ll go through each one in a bit more detail and then give you some examples of goals written in a SMART way.

SPECIFIC

It is critical that goals are SPECIFIC. They need to be very clearly defined and communicated. Everyone involved should understand exactly what they need to do to achieve the goal. Ambiguity will lead to a reduced chance of success. Wishy washy, undefined goals will not be achievable.

MEASURABLE

Measurable

Goals also need to be MEASURABLE. Defining how you intend to measure your goals will really focus you on what success should look like. It will also help with making your goals specific. In addition, having measurable goals will help you take decisions as you move towards your goal. You will more easily be able to prioritise tasks and manage risks if you know exactly how your goal is being measured.

ATTAINABLE & REALISTIC

Whilst it’s commendable to have really aspirational and ambitious goals, after a time these can become a source of irritation or frustration. Why is this? Well, if goals aren’t ATTAINABLE and REALISTIC they are unlikely to be achieved. The whole point of goals is that they can, and will be attained. Ensure that your goals are viable. To do this you can look at various aspects of achieving the goal:

  • do you have the right people available to achieve the goals
  • do you have necessary finances in place?
  • are there any technology considerations or constraints that will affect how realistic your goal is?
  • are you dependent on external teams or suppliers, and does this impact your goals?
  • do external market conditions affect your goals?
  • are there legal or regulatory conditions that impact your goals?
  • are there any known risks or assumptions that may extend the timescale for your goal and make it less realistic? If so maybe add in additional time.

Having REALISTIC goals also means having relevant goals. Ensure that your goals are relevant to what you need to achieve overall. There may be a strategy in place that the goals are aligned to, or an overall project end point that the goals are working towards.

TIME BOUND

Goals should also be TIME BOUND, and in addition, we would say timely. What do we mean by these two words?

By time bound we mean that the goals should have a clear end date by which they need to be achieved. This provides focus. Again, this date should be completely attainable and realistic, otherwise the motivation factor is lost.

We also like to make goals for our clients ‘timely’. In other words we recommend that goals are set at a rate that will incentivise the team. This might be a goal a week, a month or a quarter depending on what it is you are trying achieve. Leaving too long between goals means the momentum can be lost. Incentivising is never a bad thing. Awards, praise, or a bottle of wine when goals are achieved goes a long way. People love to be appreciated.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of SMART goals, remembering that SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound. 

EXAMPLE 1

The goal for your business might be:

“Our business is going to be more successful this year”

This goal is not a smart goal. If we focus on including each of the SMART elements the goal could be rewritten as:

“We are going to increase sales of product A by 10% in the period June to September”

This goal is now specific. The increase is sales by 10% makes it measurable. The team will have agreed that this is attainable and realistic and being specific about the period June to September makes the goal time bound.

EXAMPLE 2

Another example might be the goal to make the company more efficient.

Perhaps you know there are areas where time savings can be made. For example, your organisation may have multiple payroll processes, making the task of paying employees complex and time consuming. Making time savings on the payroll processes could lead to staff being available to help with other tasks. A SMART goal in this case might be:

Identify how existing five payroll processes can be consolidated into a single process and put an action plan together to deliver the consolidation by 30 June.

This SMART goal will lead to additional SMART goals as there is an action plan being delivered.

EXAMPLE 3

Your personal goal this year might be to get fit.

You may want a few SMART goals to help you do this. Examples could be:

  1. Run once a week for 20 minutes and swim twice a week for 30 minutes for the next 3 months
  2. Eat oily fish twice a week for the next 3 months

SMART goals will keep you focused, motivated and enable you to achieve success. Good luck with defining yours!

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