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How to Make Your Objectives SMART

How to Make Your Objectives SMART
10 July 2017 John Moore

Oh no! Not another blog about SMART objectives. Exponential Training has delivered more
coaching sessions and training courses about performance management, objective setting
and SMART than almost any other topics. Why? Because too many manages and
organisations still only pay lip service to effective objective setting.

What Does SMART Mean?

SMART is an acronym that you can use to guide your goal setting. To make sure your goals
are clear and reachable, each one should be:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

How to Use SMART in Objective Setting

1. Specific

Start by being SPECIFIC. Objectives should be clear and specific, otherwise you will not be
able to focus your efforts and resources effectively. Try using the five “W” questions when
drafting and agreeing your objectives:

  • What do I (we) want to accomplish?
  • Why is this goal important?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where is it located?
  • Which resources or limits are involved?

2. Measurable

It is important to have measurable objectives to enable both you and your team members to
keep track of progress and performance. Monitoring progress helps you and team members

to stay focused, to meet your deadlines, and to feel the excitement of getting closer to
achieving performance objectives

To create a measurable objective, ask questions such as:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?
  • When does this need to be achieved?

3. Achievable

Objectives need to be realistic and attainable – if they are not they will be de-motivating.
Objectives should be stretching, but remain achievable. When setting an achievable
objective, you may be able to identify previously overlooked opportunities or resources that
can bring you closer to it.
To create an achievable measurable objective, ask questions such as:

  • How can this objective be accomplished?
  • How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints, such as financial factors?
  • What resources will be needed to achieve the objective?

4. Relevant

This step is about ensuring the objective matters to you and your team member – it is about
the why> It must align with other relevant goals and objectives.
To create relevant objectives, ask questions such as:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Why is this objective important?
  • Does this match my/our other efforts/needs?

5. Time-bound

All objectives need a target date. Time scales and target dates enable people to focus on an
end-point. This part of the SMART objective criteria helps to prevent every day, operational
tasks from taking priority over medium and longer-term goals.
To create a time-bound objective, ask questions such as:

  • When?
  • What can be done in six months from now?
  • What can be achieved in six weeks from now?
  • What can be completed today?

SMART Benefits and Challenges

SMART is an effective tool that provides the clarity, focus and motivation to achieve
performance objectives. It can also improve your team’s ability to reach them by engaging
them in defining and agreeing their objectives with you.

If you already set SMART objectives great! It might, however, be worth just using this guide
to check that you really are working SMART!

For other ideas on working SMART check out Working Smarter Not Harder.

John Moore has over 20 years experience of training and developing Managers, Coaches, Consultants and businesses. As Managing Director of Exponential Training, John researches, speaks, blogs and writes about how to improve performance. He also designs and delivers engaging, fun and interactive learning programmes. John is a Fellow Chartered Manager and has worked with managers and organisations in over 20 different countries.