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Setting SMART Goals


The secret to alleviating common project challenges is to set specific goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are designed to provide structure and guidance throughout a project, to assist you better identify what you want to accomplish. This method is especially effective in helping employees set goals that align with the company.

Once you have planned your project, turn your attention to developing several goals that will enable you to be successful. Goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based.

Published in a paper (1981) called, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” George T. Doran, a consultant and former director of corporate planning for Washington Water Power Company, introduced S.M.A.R.T. goals as a tool to create criteria to help improve the chances of succeeding in accomplishing a goal.

The acronym SMART has several slightly different variations, which can be used to provide a more comprehensive definition of goal setting:

  • S – specific, significant, stretching
  • M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
  • A – attainable, agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
  • R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
  • T – timely, time-based, time-bound, tangible, trackable

When you next run a project take a moment to consider whether your goals are SMART goals.

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” ~ Pablo Picasso

This broader definition will help you to be successful in both your business and personal life.

– Well defined
– Clear to anyone that has a basic knowledge of the project
A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:
Who:      Who is involved?
What:     What do I want to accomplish?
Where:    Identify a location.
When:     Establish a time frame.
Which:    Identify requirements and constraints.
Why:      Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

A general goal for example would be, “Get in shape.” A specific goal on the other hand would say, “Join a gym and workout 3 days a week.”

– Know if the goal is obtainable and how far away completion is
– Find out when you have achieved your goal

Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set.

When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goal.

To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as:
How much?
How many?
How will I know when it is accomplished?

– When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true.
– You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.

You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them. When you list your goals you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them. If in a group or third parties are involved – Agreement with all the stakeholders what the goals should be

– Within the availability of resources, knowledge and time

To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress.

A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force. Some of the hardest jobs you ever accomplished actually seem easy simply because they were a labor of love.

– Enough time to achieve the goal
– Not too much time, which can affect project performance
– A goal should be grounded within a time frame.

With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to lose 30 kg, when do you want to lose it by? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a time frame, “by 1st May”, then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal.

Your goal is probably realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished. Additional ways to know if your goal is realistic is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past or ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to accomplish this goal.

T can also stand for Tangible – A goal is tangible when you can experience it with one of the senses, that is, taste, touch, smell, sight or hearing.

When your goal is tangible you have a better chance of making it specific and measurable and thus attainable.

Two additional steps, making the acronym SMARTER, would be:

Ethical or Evaluate
Goals must sit comfortably within your moral compass. Most people resist acting unethically. Set goals that meet a high ethical standard. Constantly be evaluating your goals

Recorded or Re-Set
Always write down your goal before you start working towards it. Written goals are visible and have a greater chance of success. The recording is necessary for the planning, monitoring and reviewing of progress.
Company directions change, personal goals evolve, so maybe a goal you set six months ago no longer makes sense.

“Everybody has their own Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.” ~ Seth Godin

Whether you write S.M.A.R.T. or SMARTER goals, you’ll find that having some clarity about what you want to achieve can make all the difference between success and failure.

Download this Thrive Coach SMART Goals worksheet here to start setting your compass right away!