Apr 15

What is so smart about S.M.A.R.T?

What is so smart about S.M.A.R.T? Understanding the brilliance of S.M.A.R.T. goals is like unlocking a treasure chest of potential. It's not just about setting goals; it's about setting the right goals in the right way. S.M.A.R.T. goals provide the roadmap to success, guiding us step by step toward our dreams. George Doran (1981) emphasized that goals are not just a part, but a crucial aspect of our personal and professional lives. They don't just provide direction and guidance, but also ignite inspiration and motivation, and most importantly, offer a clear sense of focus. 

In his two-page paper, “There is a S.M.A.R.T way to write Management Goals and Objectives,” Doran (1981) introduced SMART as an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

These five features are not just elements, but tools that empower us to focus on the performances, tasks, and work that need to be done, and to enhance what needs to be accomplished. The process of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals involves: 1. Identifying the goal. 2. Making the goal specific. 3. Ensuring the goal is measurable. 4. Making the goal achievable. 5. Making the goal realistic. 6. Setting a timeline for the goal. Following these steps in order will help you set effective S.M.A.R.T. goals. What is so smart about S.M.A.R.T is that it brings the performances necessary to achieve the goals into clear view through meaningful objectives.  By using the mnemonics, the results to be achieved are not just framed, but integrated, so that goal setting and goal realization become a guided and purposeful journey, providing a clear path and direction. 

Let’s discuss each word represented in the S.M.A.R.T. acronym.  S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific: Distinct, clear, and explicit criteria; Measurable: with explicit criteria, you are able to measure performance and progress that is all about the goal; Achievable: Possible and not impossible to attain; Realistic: Within reach, accurate, and pertinent to your life purpose, and Timely: apart from relevance, the goal and performances that support the goal have been in a timeline, with start dates and end dates to ensure not only accomplishments are met within a target date but also aware that to measure performance and progress that support the goal, time is a crucial element. For instance, a specific personal goal could be: 'I want to lose 10 pounds in the next three months.' An organizational goal could be: 'We want to increase our customer base by 20% by the end of the year.'

Specificity of goals highlights an understanding of what needs to be achieved, and by this understanding and clarity, there is a greater chance of accomplishment.  Not only that, the goals must be observable, clear and concise, and added dimensions such as people (who), state(s) of accomplishment (what), place (where) and time (when) which are relevant to the goal accomplishment and the why – reasons why this goal need to be achieved.   Another example of a personal goal is: “I want to be healthier by the end of six months.”  An example of an organizational goal is: “We want to drive more clients to take up our services and double our current sales by the end of the year.” 

Having start and end dates allows for measuring progress. By identifying goals, and then the performance that would support these goals, and a timeframe, performance can be assessed using measurable dimensions.  These dimensions can either be rate (performance over time), duration (how long to achieve the goal) and percent (correct performances that support the achievement of the goals), to name a few dimensions. A specific goal and clarity with performances that support the goal align with an indicator of progress that is validated by data collection and a robust measurement system.

Questions for reflection and feedback are not just relevant, but crucial in assessing if goals are achievable (can they be done?), realistic (are they practical and effective?), and timely (can the goal be attained by the deadline?). This process of reflection and feedback actively engages and involves us in the goal-setting process, making it more effective and meaningful. Why be S.M.A.R.T? Individuals and organizations can set themselves for success by setting goals through proper organization and a clear sense of direction. That is what S.M.A.R.T provides.