“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” —Zig Ziglar
Have recent or past projects failed to live up to expectations? Do you and your team consistently fall short of achieving desired results? There could be a myriad of reasons for this shortcoming, but failure to define actionable goals is often the most obvious. One way to define actionable goals is to develop them using the SMART acronym:
The use of SMART goals was originated by George T. Doran in 1981. He wrote a paper titled, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” Today the SMART technique used to develop goals has grown in popularity and has been adapted for use in both business and personal life. Let’s explore each component of the SMART acronym.
Leaders often talk about the desire to achieve goals. After all, they serve to guide our efforts to ensure success. But in order for a goal to serve as a guide, specific tasks related to the goal must be clearly defined.
Let’s consider a scenario in which a leader, who is also an IT project manager has a goal to develop a new software application (app). This app is to provide more product information to customers compared to the existing one, and be easy to navigate and aesthetically appealing.
The project manager decides to use the SMART acronym to refine the project’s goal. To meet the first criteria, Specific, he or she needs to identify the details of the goal by answering questions such as:
After identifying the specifics of the goal, the project manager’s next step is to identify ways to determine how the success of the project will be measured. This component identifies standards which informs the degree to which the goal must be completed. While examining this component of SMART, he or she may find answers to the questions below useful:
The third criteria involve deciding if the goal can be achieved within the environment in which the team must operate. The project manager will need to consider this component thoroughly, including the resources that will be required. If the required resources are not available, he or she must explore ways to obtained them.
Considering the following question, will help determine if the goal is achievable:
Using the SMART acronym to define how the goal relates to the organization will help identify the benefit of achieving it. Considering the app development example, scores of software applications are developed each year; however, some don’t provide the intended benefit. Therefore, the project manager must exercise due diligence before embarking on the goal. Failure to integrate the relevance component may result in a misuse of resources, which usually can’t be recouped and may cause him or her to appear out-of-touch with reality. Some questions need to be asked to determine relevance include:
The other component of the SMART acronym is timeliness. While all of the component of SMART are important, timeliness is arguably the most important. Getting this component wrong often leads to missed deadlines resulting in cost overruns.
Continuing with the software app development example, the project manager should carefully examine whether the goal can be completed within the established time-frame, given the available resources and needs of the organization. The current state of the organization should also be considered. Questions that would be useful to answer for this component include:
Although a scenario of an IT Project Manager tasked with developing a software application was used in the example above, the SMART acronym can be applied to any goal. Using it is essential for developing definable and actionable performance goals. Anyone desiring to be more effective in his or her professional or personal life, will find the SMART acronym a beneficial tool.
For more information about developing and using SMART goals, check out my blog at www.AlonzoJohnsonPHD.com.