Wikipedia defines ‘SMART’ as a “mnemonic used to set objectives. The first known uses of the term occur in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran.” Widely adopted in the project management, personal development, performance management and IT industry, SMART goals have proven an effective methodology for setting and attaining goals of all sizes. It is easy to understand and can be adapted to suit the needs of the task at hand. The letters in the mnemonic stand for the following:Specific: Every goal must be specific and address the “W’s” of the project at hand: Who will be involved/benefited in this project
The customers, stakeholders, partners, agents, owners, etc.
What is the objective of your goal/plan?
To increase sales by 20% in the next month; to implement a paperless system in the office by Dec 2013, etc.
Why is this beneficial/crucial to the business?
Will increase business expansion by 50%; will cut spending on paper products and reduce the business’s carbon footprint, etc.
When will the goals/plan be implemented?
May 1 – May 30, 2012; May 1-Dec 5, 2013, etc.
Where will the goals be implemented?
In the Sales and Customer Service departments; at ABC company HQ; etc.
Which requirements/challenges must we be aware of the most?
Sales and customer service departments currently use separate sales tracking systems; staff needs training on the Mac/Apple systems first, etc.Remember, the more specific you can get about your project or goal, the more clarity you will have about its scope and purpose. You can also substitute the ‘S’ in SMART with significant, simple, stretching, etc., to fit the needs of your goal.Measurable: Your goal must be measurable. Measuring your goals will help you drill down to more specifically define your milestones, expectations and tasks. Gauging each of these attributes will help determine whether you are on track, how far you have come, what your time constraints are and can also help you stay motivated.There is nothing worse than getting on the road and finding out that you are miles away from your intended destination: a waste of time, energy and money. So, take the time to implement a measuring system to effectively take you from point A to point B by asking questions like ‘how much?, how many?, how often?’Again, you can also use words like manageable, motivational, meaning, etc.Actionable: This is where the rubber meets the road. This is the ‘doing’ phase of your goal-setting endeavor. Each and every measurable attribute must be attainable or aligned or achievable. This means breaking down your plan into actionable steps that can be easily assigned, accomplished or acceptable.On some occasions you might even have to ensure that your plan is ‘agreed upon’ by all stakeholders on the project. If this is a personal goal, keep yourself motivated to move forward by creating bite-size tasks and building massive meaning into why you must accomplish your goal.Relevant: This is the tricky one. Some schools of thought argue that this stage can be redundant if not defined properly. It acts as a sort of a re-evaluation stage in some instances and helps bring more clarity to setting a goal. For example, if a goal is not realistic then your actionable steps will be unrealistic as well.Relevance on the other hand helps to build meaning, purpose and necessity into the goal-setting exercise. In other words, if you do not have a big enough ‘why’ to your goal then chances of staying committed to it are pretty slim.Time-bound: As a human being, you are wired to perform optimally when you can see the finish line. So, get committed and set a start and finish time to your goal/project. Nothing is worth more than a job done on time. Moreover family, friends or co-workers are more likely to help if they know exactly how much time it will take them to contribute. Free yourself and others from the agony of guessing about the outcome by showing them a well-defined plan.I do agree, however, that things happen in life and allowing for adjustments is essential. But the key is to plan for the ‘big picture’ first and then make the adjustments as you travel along. Actionable bite-size steps make for a flexible implementation especially if each step is created with a time-frame attached to it.In addition to the above steps, there are 2 more criteria you can add to your SMART goals to make them SMARTER.Ethical: As an entrepreneur you are fully aware of the impact you and your business has on the lives of those around you: family, employees, community, etc. Therefore, it is only essential that you take some time during your goal-setting endeavor to ensure that your goals and its accomplishment align with the overall relevance of your ethics. If you cannot see your goals or aspirations fitting in with your beliefs, then you will not be motivated to carry them through to completion.Resourced: In order to accomplish goals of scale, every entrepreneur needs to take inventory of the resources available to him to make achieving his goals possible. Ask questions like, Is my team ready? Do my employees have all the tools and knowledge they need to accomplish their tasks? Are the skills I have sufficient to carry this goal to completion, and if not, then what skill/knowledge do I need to learn?In other instances, you might even want to gauge if your action or measurement is repeatable for future use as in an employee evaluation system.So, the planning is done and now its time to implement your actionable steps. In careful review of the points above you will notice how subtly one step fits into another: how goals must be relevant, how actions must be specific and time-bound, how resources affect timeframe, etc. Each step is tailored to do one thing: keep you focused.Focus will provide you clarity of vision, purpose and motivation to inspire continued action and spur you to take the next step toward completing your goal. Get SMART(ER) with your goals!