Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar iconNot recorded
Adobe PDF icon

Use SMART Objectives to Focus Goals, Plans and Performance

~ By Susan Berry & Randy Thomas, Ph.D.

Focus goals crossword on a white background

What's so smart about SMART? Why has this acronym become part of the vocabulary of project planning and performance management?

Objectives that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Realistic/Relevant, and Time-bound) are likely to be achieved. When generic, off-the shelf objectives get the SMART treatment, they emerge as targets that engage focus, action, feedback and learning. These targets assist development of individual work plans, and also provide a guidance system for supervisor-staff performance review discussions.

How Do You Write a SMART Objective Statement?

First, you must decide exactly what you expect to create, and how you will recognise it when it comes to be. Now put it in words: "Our Internet Marketing system produces a minimum of $3500 per month in product sales by 31 July 2015, with a quarterly increase of at least 5% thereafter." The Specific, Measurable, and Time-bound aspects are built into one short declaration.

Will it happen? Much depends on whether your objective is aligned with things that really matter to you (and your organisation), and whether you can commit the resources to bring it about. In individuals and in organisations, resource distribution often reflects past priorities and requirements. As you develop your SMART objective, step back and compare proposed results with existing commitments in the larger organisation or systems you serve. This broader perspective can help you decide if:

  1. Your proposed result is consistent with and directly relevant to larger strategic goals and desired outcomes, and
  2. Your proposed result has such great pay-off potential that it is worth the resource investment it requires.

Taking on a new initiative usually means that something else must go. If you discover that current investments are not producing the gains you had hoped for, you know where you can harvest resources for endeavours you believe will be more fruitful.

Now that your objective embodies the "Alignment" and "Realistic/Relevant" aspects of SMART, you are ready to use it as a target for work plans.

Using SMART Objectives for Feedback and Learning

In complex systems, feedback is the process of comparing a target state with current conditions to signal and control the need for adjustment. A thermostat, for example, provides feedback that enables the heating system to maintain its target temperature.

In teams and organisations, feedback involves regular check-ins to compare anticipated results with current progress. Monitoring progress can be as simple as asking yourself these three questions:

  1. Am I doing what I planned?
  2. Is my work having the impact I anticipated (producing or moving toward the result targets established by my objectives)?
  3. Are changes needed in my plan?

These common-sense questions are the basis for fruitful self assessment, performance review discussions, and organisational learning about what works to produce desired results.

Although the questions are straightforward, it may be tough to collect the data that will give you accurate and actionable answers.

That's where your SMART objective comes in. A SMART objective includes measures that you can track to gauge progress. In the Internet Marketing objective cited above, the measure of success is monthly sales income. In order to collect this data, you must have a systematic means of logging sales by date and tracking their source. If your current systems cannot do this, change them to provide these data or find another measure of success.

At their heart, SMART objectives contain the potential to focus attention, work plans, and commitment to performance targets. Because meaningful and practical measures are built in, SMART objectives also enable feedback and learning that can keep you on track to success.


By Susan Berry and Randy Thomas - The "Working Together" Team. If you would like to learn more about creating and using SMART objectives to achieve individual, team, or organisational outcomes, visit www.consultingtipsandtools.com and the consult, facilitate, or coach sections of www.aligned4results.com

Copyright 2008 Aligned for Results LLC by R. Thomas and S. Berry. All rights reserved.


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
Enter the word foot backwards.
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Top Three Causes of Project Failure

Businessman in a black suit holding up a white sign reading failed

The top three causes of project failure, which if addressed will greatly increase the chances of project success.

Four Steps to Project Time Management

Man pointing at an alarm clock

The four steps outlined in this article will help you better define and measure the activities that make up your project timeline.

How to Get the Most From Your Project Team

Project team in a huddle

Project management is people management. Here's our reminder of how to make sure you get the most from your project team.

Project Management Process Groups Explained

Project management process group icons on a curved line

Project management processes consist of five process groups and a control system used to apply knowledge and skills to a project. This article provides a breakdown of what's involved.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Robbie Rowland commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Tue 28 March 12:01am

Velma Tailly commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Sat 25 March 7:23pm

Joseph Marandus commented on…
How to Apply PRINCE2: Engaging Senior Management in Your Projects
- Tue 21 March 1:59pm

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Re: How do you track who from your human resources have related… https://t.co/GQfwuFRDQP #projectsmart #pmot about 2 days ago

General Project Management • How to gain experience in Project Management? https://t.co/hsWb5YUKei #projectsmart #pmot about 2 days ago

General Project Management • No Sponsor https://t.co/ii52CgAiCs #projectsmart #pmot about 13 days ago