George Ambler has a good post on SMART goals at his blog The Practice of Leadership.
It’s title is the “10 Steps to Setting SMART objectives” and references an article by Andrew Bell whose title is also “10 Steps to SMART Objectives” (.pdf). His 10 steps are repeated below, with my emphasis.
Some of the tips may seem like no-brainers, but I find it’s usually the simple things that get forgotten or overlooked:
1. Understand the difference between objectives and aims, goals and/or targets before you start. Aims and goals etc relate to your aspirations objectives are your battle-plan. Set as many objectives as you need for success.
2. SMART usually stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (See SMARTER Objectives for variants)
3. Don’t try to use the order SMART, often the best way to write objectives is: M-A/R-S-T
4. Measurable is the most important consideration. You will know that you’ve achieved your objective, because here is the evidence. I will know too! Make sure you state how you will record your success.
5. Achievable is linked to Measurable. Usually, there’s no point in starting a job you know you can’t finish, or one where you can’t tell if/when you’ve finished it. How can I decide if it’s achievable?
- You know it’s Measurable
- Others have done it successfully (before you, or somewhere else)
- It’s theoretically possible (ie clearly not ‘not achievable’)
- You have the necessary resources, or at least a realistic chance of getting them
- You’ve assessed the limitations.
6. If it’s Achievable, it may not be Realistic. If it isn’t realistic, it’s not achievable.You need to know:
- Who’s going to do it?
- Do they have (or can they get) the skills to do a good job?
- Where’s the money coming from?
- Who carries the can?
- Realistic is about human resources/time/money/opportunity
7. The main reason it’s Achievable but not Realistic is that it’s not a high priority. Often something else needs to be done first, before you’ll succeed. If so, set up two (or more) objectives in priority order.
8. The devil is in the specific detail. You will know your objective is Specific enough if:
- Everyone who’s involved knows that it includes them specifically
- Everyone involved can understand it
- Your objective is free from jargon
- You’ve defined all your terms
- You’ve used only appropriate language
9. Timely means setting deadlines. You must include one, otherwise your objective isn’t Measurable. But your deadlines must be realistic, or the task isn’t achievable. T must be M, and R, and S without these your objective cannot be top-priority.
10. It is worth this effort. You’ll know you’ve done your job well, and so will others.
Remember the SMART or SMARTer approach is a TEST to be carried out after writing the goals or objective to test its validity – it is not an order to be followed or a constraint to be applied when developing goals or objectives.
SMARTer Objectives can be used in a wide range of setting including – performance management, project management, program management, appraisals, management by objectives , personal development plans, personal learning logs and a wide range of other applications