The SMART acronym for objective and goal setting has been around for quite some time. George T. Doran used the terminology in a Management Review article in 1981. Ken Blanchard discusses SMART objectives in Leadership and the One Minute Manager and many others since have discussed the benefits of creating specific and measurable objectives. Although the words associated with some letters vary depending upon who you talk to (does “A” stand for achievable or attainable?), all parties agree that well-written objectives help you reach the ultimate goal.
With respect to goals versus objectives, this article focuses on SMART objectives. However, the criteria are applicable to goals too. Objectives can be defined as significant tasks needed to reach a goal or long-term strategy. A goal is the desired final outcome. An objective is more specific than a goal. And, many objectives may be needed to reach a goal.
SMART objectives were initially associated with project management theory. But, SMART criteria are also useful in developing job-related objectives and personal goals. We will focus on a project in this article. In order to work with an example, let me disclose that I would love to publish a fabulous cookbook that will make lots of money. This is a someday goal and a very poorly worded one at that. Several objectives are needed to accomplish this vague desire. Read on to learn the requirements of a SMART objective and to see an important objective developed for my cookbook.
Setting effective objectives to guide your team and organisation is very important for a leader to get right. Badly formulated objectives will steer an organisation in the wrong direction. I found this 10 step approach to setting SMART objectives from the National Primary and Care Trust.
- Sort out the difference between objectives and aims, goals and/or targets before you start. Aims and goals relate to your aspirations, objectives are your battle-plan. Set as many objectives as you need for success.
- SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
- Don’t try to use that order M-A/R-S-T is often the best way to write objectives.
- Measurable is the most important consideration. You will know that you’ve achieved your objective, because here is the evidence. I will know too! Make sure you state how you will record your success.
- Achievable is linked to measurable. Usually, there’s no point in starting a job you know you can’t finish, or one where you can’t tell if or when you’ve finished it
An objective that follows SMART is more likely to succeed because it is clear (specific) so you know exactly what needs to be achieved. You can tell when it has been achieved (measurable) because you have a way to measure completion. A SMART objective is likely to happen because it is an event that is achievable. Before setting a SMART objective relevant factors such as resources and time were taken into account to ensure that it is realistic. Finally the timescale element provides a deadline which helps people focus on the tasks required to achieve the objective. The timescale element stops people postponing task completion