Write SMART objectives & Goals

Smart ObjectivesHow to write SMART objectives and SMARTer objectives & Goals

Welcome to (probably) the most comprehensive SMART objective resource page on the web

Writing SMARTer Objectives

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based, Exciting, Recorded… or is it?

Follow the links or scroll down….

History and origins of the SMART objectives acronym – updated Dec 2009
History of SMARTER – updated June 2010

Introduction to SMART Objectives and Goals

SMART Variations – updated June 2010

Working Definitions of SMART objectives

SMARTer Definitions

Template or formats for writing SMART Objectives



Verbs for use in objectives

Rewriting existing objectives

10 Tips for Setting SMART Goals / Objectives

Uses of SMARTER objectives

Making objectives personal – WIIFM & PRISM

Ready to use off-the-shelf training materials and trainers notesHave a look at our ready to use training materials – leader guide, participant handouts, ppt slides etc

Introduction to SMART objectives and SMART Goals

Management by Objectives is often credited to Peter Drucker in his 1954 book “The Practice of Management”, from this claimed history and approach the use of the acronym SMARTer has grown. Having said that, for those that have bothered to read the book – there is NO DIRECT reference to SMART by Drucker in this publication.  While it is clear that Drucker was the first to write about management by objectives, the SMART acronym is harder to trace in terms of  documented evedence. Read about our investigation into the history and origins of the SMART objectives acronym.

The use of the approach to managing known as “Management By Objectives” or MBO, has reduced in recent years, however increasingly, many organizations are using the SMART and SMARTER acronym within goal setting and performance appraisal or management environments. The use of SMART objective formatting is not limited to business and performance management, indeed SMART possibly started in the world of personal development.

This page has been written to provide not only an overview of the SMART objective format, but to help you the manager or developer to write your own.

SMARTer is an acronym to help in the writing of objectives. the objectives can be for managing performance or for developmental purposes.

There are a variety of types of objectives that can be written, all can be done in the SMARTer format.

  • Process objectives
    • lets you know what you are doing and how you will do it; describes participants, interactions and activities
  • Impact objectives
    • lets you know what the long term implications of your program[me]/ activity will be; describes the longer term impact on your target audience or organization
  • Outcome objectives
    • lets you know how you will change attitudes, knowledge or behavior (short term); describe the degree to which you expect this change
  • Personal objectives
    • personal development is an ideal application for SMARTer objectives. Often we see SMARTer objectives written for project management or business and performance management, however as individuals in our personal development plans, SMARTer objectives are also a valuable formula within which to set and individual measure performance.


Language in objectives

Objectives are active using strong verbs. Action verbs are observable and better communicate the intent of what is to be attempted, like plan, write, conduct, produce, apply, to recite, to revise, to contrast, to install, to select, to assemble, to compare, to investigate, and to develop. etc.

Avoid generalities in objective statements and infinitives to avoid include to know, to understand, to enjoy, and to believe. rather than learn, understand, feel. The words need to be not only active but measurable.

A goal can be defined as “The purpose toward which an endeavor is directed; an objective”  In personal and organizational development terms, the goal is set as the main single aim and objectives are the elements which together achieve the goal.  goal may only have one objective.


SMART acronym variations– SMARTer

There are many variations on the theme including:

Variations of words commonly used in SMART as an acronym
SSpecificStimulating SincereSimple StretchingSuccinctStraight forward

Self owned

Self managed

Self controlled




MMeasurableMotivatingManageable MeaningfulMagicalMagnetic


Mapped to goals

AAchievable * Assignable in the 1981 document by Doran* AffirmativeAppropriate
Audacious *
Actionable AttainableAmbitiousAspirational

Accepted/ acceptable








RRealisticRelevantResults Orientated Resources are adequateResourcedRewarding




Relevant to a mission

TTime-.. boundlimiteddriven


* constricted







Tangible©Trackable TraceableTimed/ TimelyToward what you want



Some versions of the acronym add the letters – ER making SMARTer objectives

EEncompassing *Empowering
Evaluated EngagingEnergisingEthical


RReviewed*RewardingRecorded RealisticRelevantResourced
Research Based


One of the key advantages in using SMARTER in the agreeing and setting of personal development goals, it it helps to recognize the importance of the engagement of the individual. The more motivated they are by the development objective the better they appears to perform, often putting extra time into self development activity.

* changes introduced in SMARTER 2003 in “Strategy Planning for Success” Kaufman et al –

Advanced PE for Edexcel By Frank Galligan (2000) – This is believed to be the first publication of SMARTER (if you know of an earlier publication please let us know)

Some proponents have said that to be really effective objectives should be SMARTER2 Where it is the multiplying factor of using all elements that ensures a powerful and effective objective.




Some also add a C at the beginning or end of SMART or SMARTER making C-SMART or C-SMARTER, where C is Challenging.


Others have started to add an S at the end to make – SMART-S where the last S is stretching or sustainable.


Some add a second A to make SMAART, where the two As are Attainable and Action-oriented.

One could argue that it does not matter which one you use as long as everyone in the organization is working to the same model. To some extent it all depends what you are using the objective for, and in what context. A business performance objective may have a different format to a developmental goal, however as long as everyone in the organization is working to the same version.




Some working definitions

Using the most common version of the SMART objective here are some common explanations.





Objectives should specify what they need to achieveYou should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or notAre the objectives you set, achievable and attainable?Can you realistically achieve the objectives with the resources you have?When do you want to achieve the set objectives?



Tangible ©

A specific objective has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific objective you need to 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
Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each objective you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the feeling of achievement that drives you on to continued effort required to reach your objective. To determine if your objective is measurable, ask questions such as……How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished?When you identify objectives that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. The objective needs to be attainable by you based on the skills you have and the constraints imposed.To be realistic, it must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. An objective can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high it should be.Your objective is probably realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished.Additional ways to know if your objective 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 objective.Tangible when you can experience it with one of the senses. When your goal is tangible, or when you tie a tangible goal to an intangible goal, you have a better chance of making it specific and measurable and thus attainable.



Time Framed

What exactly are we going to do, with or for whom?Is it measurable & can WE measure it?Can we get it done in the timeframe/in this political climate/with this amount of money?Will this objective lead to the desired results?When will we accomplish/ complete this objective?




Specific in the context of developing objectives means that an observable action, behaviour or achievement is described which is also linked to a rate, number, percentage or frequency. This latter point is extremely important – let me illustrate. ‘Answer the phone quickly’ can be said to be a precise description of behaviour, you can clearly see whether someone answers the phone or not, but there is no rate, number, percentage or frequency linked to it. So, if I state; ‘Answer the phone within 4 rings’ a rate has been added and the behaviour is now much more specific.Summary: Is there a description of a precise or specific behaviour / outcome which is linked to a rate, number, percentage or frequency?A system, method or procedure has to exist which allows the tracking and recording of the behaviour or action upon which the objective is focused. Setting an objective that requires phone calls to be answered in four rings is acceptable, provided a system exists which measures whether this is actually being achieved. If none exists the manager must be prepared to set time aside time to actually monitor the response rates to incoming phone calls.The only other alternative is to get the person with whom the objectives are being set to measure their own progress; in some cases and situations it may be acceptable to do this, in others maybe not – use common sense to decide this.Remember what gets measures gets done. so be careful!

Summary: Is there a reliable system in place to measure progress towards the achievement of the objective?

The objectives that are set with people need to be capable of being reached, put most basically; there is a likelihood of success but that does not mean easy or simple. The objectives need to be stretching and agreed by the parties involved.Setting targets that are plainly ridiculous does not motivate people; it merely confirms their opinion of you as an idiot.They will apply no energy or enthusiasm to a task that is futile.

Summary: With a reasonable amount of effort and application can the objective be achieved?

This means two things; that the goal or target being set with the individual is something they can actually impact upon or change and secondly it is also important to the organization Example: Telling the cleaners that they ‘have to increase market share over the next financial quarter’ is not actually something they can do anything about – it’s not relevant to them. However, asking them to reduce expenditure on cleaning materials by £50 over the next three months is entirely relevant to them. It’s what they spend their budget on every day. As to whether it’s relevant to what the organization is trying to achieve, the manager has to decide this by considering the wider picture.Summary: Can the people with whom the objective is set make an impact on the situation?Do they have the necessary knowledge, authority and skill?In the objective somewhere there has to be a date (Day/Month/Year) for when the task has to be started (if it’s ongoing) and/or completed (if it’s short term or project related). Simply: No date = No good. Summary: Is there a finish and/or a start date clearly stated or defined?




An objective must be specific with a single key result. If more than one result is to be accomplished, more than one objective should be written. Just knowing what is to be accomplished is a big step toward achieving it. What is important to you?Once you clarify what you want to achieve, your attention will be focused on the objective that you deliberately set. You will be doing something important to you.An objective must be measurable. Only an objective that affects behavior in a measurable way can be optimally effective. If possible, state the objective as a quantity. Some objectives are more difficult to measure than others are. However, difficulty does not mean that they cannot be measured.How will you know you’ve progressed?An objective must be attainable with the resources that are available. It must be realistic. Many objectives are realistic. However, the time it takes to achieve them may be unrealistic. For example, it is realistic to want to lose ten pounds. However, it is unrealistic to want to lose ten pounds in one week.What barriers stand between you and your objective? How will each barrier be overcome and within what time frame?The objective should be central to the goals of the organization The successful completion of the objective should make a difference. How will this objective help the organization move ahead? Is the objective aligned with the mission of the organization?The objective should be traceable. Specific objectives enable time priorities to be set and time to be used on objectives that really matter. Are the time lines you have established realistic? Will other competing demands cause delay? Will you be able to overcome those demands to accomplish the objective you’ve set in the time frame you’ve established?



Time Based

Is there a description of a precise or specific behavior / outcome which is linked to a rate, number, percentage or frequency?Is there a reliable system in place to measure progress towards the achievement of the objective?With a reasonable amount of effort and application can the objective be achieved?Can the person with whom the objective is set make an impact on the situation? Do they have the necessary knowledge, authority and skill and is it relevant to the organizational goals and aims?Is there a finish and/or a start date clearly stated or defined?



Additional definitions – smartER goals and objectives

The goal should stretch the performer’s capabilities or make a significant contribution to the mission and purpose of the organization It’s boring and can seem purposeless if it doesn’t (and the “A” — acceptance and accountability – criteria will suffer too).


The goal must be engaging for the individual. When a person is excited by the goal or the journey they are more likely to apply themselves to the achievement of the activity being discussed.

A person should know what it will mean and what will result from a full effort in completing the goal.


There is a written record of the objective, its constraints and the enablers required for success. Having the objective written is said to help increase the likelihood of completion and success, at the very least it ensures that both parties have a common understanding of what was agreed.


Lets add some more detail…

Acronym elementDescriptionDiagnostic Questions
SpecificSpecific means that the objective is concrete, detailed, focused and well defined. The objective must be straight forwards and emphasize action and the required outcome.Specific also means that it’s results and action-orientated.Objectives need to be straightforward and to communicate what you would like to see happen. To help set specific objectives it helps to ask:

  • WHAT am I going to do? This are best written using strong, action verbs such as conduct, develop, build, plan, execute, etc. This helps your objective to be action-orientated and focuses on what’s most important.
  • WHY is this important for me to do?
  • WHO is going to do what? Who else need to be involved?
  • WHEN do I want this to be completed?
  • HOW am I going to do this?
  • What exactly are we going to do, with or for whom?
  • What strategies will be used?
  • Is the objective well understood?
  • Is the objective described with action verbs?
  • Is it clear who is involved?
  • Is it clear where this will happen?
  • Is it clear what needs to happen?
  • Is the outcome clear?
  • Will this objective lead to the desired results?
MeasurableIf the objective is measurable, it means that the measurement source is identified and we are able to track the actions as we progress towards the objective. Measurement is the standard used for comparison. For example, what financially independence means to one person, may be totally different compared to what is means for another.If you cannot measure it .. you cannot manage itIt’s important to have measures that will encourage and motivate you on the way as you see the change occurring, this may require interim measures.

Measurements (and the visible progress) go along way to help us to know when we have achieved our objective.

  • How will I know that the change has occurred?
  • Can these measurements be obtained?
AchievableObjectives need to be achievable, if the objective is too far in the future, you’ll find it difficult to keep motivated and to strive to attain it. Objectives, unlike your aspirations and visions, need to be achievable to keep you motivated.Objectives need to stretch you, but not so far that you become frustrated and lose motivation.
  • Can we get it done in the proposed timeframe?
  • Do I understand the limitations and constraints?
  • Can we do this with the resources we have?
  • Has anyone else done this successfully?
  • Is this possible?
RealisticObjectives that are achievable, may not be realistic….. however, realistic does not mean easy. Realistic means that you have the resources to get it done. The achievement of an objective requires resources, such as, skills, money, equipment, etc. to the task required to achieve the objective. Whilst keeping objectives realistic, ensure that they stretch you.Most objectives are achievable but, may require a change in your priorities to make them happen.
  • Do you have the resources available to achieve this objective?
  • Do I need to revisit priorities in my life to make this happen?
  • Is it possible to achieve this objective?
TimeTime-bound means setting a deadlines for the achievement of the objective. Deadlines need to be both achievable and realistic. If you don’t set a time you will reduce the motivation and urgency required to execute the tasks. Agreed Time frames create the necessary urgency and prompts action.
  • When will this objective be accomplished?
  • Is there a stated deadline?



Templates and Formats for writing SMARTer objective statements

SMART Objectives Version 1

SMARTer Objective for _________________
By ____/_____/___ , __ _____________________________________________________ will have ___________________________ [WHEN]  _____________________________________________________________[WHO/WHAT, include a number that you can measure]________________________________________________________________________,

[HOW, WHY (remember to specify results)]



Template or format for writing SMARTer objective statementsVersion 2

SMARTer objectives for __________________ department/ individual
Objectives for Year:___/___/200__                                       Objectives for Period:___/___/___ to ___/___/___

GoalSpecific ObjectiveMeasurementSteps to AttainRelevantTime FrameNotes



Template or format for writing SMARTer objective statementsVersion 3

SMARTer ObjectivesName/ Department
ObjectiveMeasuresAgreed ByIs it Realistic & RelevantTimings/ DeadlineActions/ Comments
Individual ____ Manager _____
Individual ____ Manager _____
Individual ____ Manager _____
Individual ____ Manager _____
Individual ____ Manager _____



Sample SMARTer Statements

Example of SMARTer objective SMART criteria
“To recommend, …Achievable
…at the June…Time bound
…board of directors’ meeting, the three…Specific
…providers that offer the best and broadest coverage at a cost that is at least 10% less than the company’s current per-employee contribution.”Realistic and Measurable


More sample objective statements

  • By the end of the diabetes skills building workshops 60% of the attendees will be able to describe and demonstrate 4 new skills they have learned and will use in managing their child’s diabetes.
  • By the end of the asthma management classes, 75% of patients will be able to describe and demonstrate the correct use of a Peak-Flow Meter.
  • By May 10, 2009 the Health Education staff from the Stroke Association will have planned and conducted 4 skills building workshops for 50 carers of recently diagnosed Stroke patients at the Chiswick training centre.
  • Profitability Objectives – To achieve a 25% return on capital employed by August 2009.
  • Market Share Objectives – To gain 25% of the market for sports shoes by September 2009
  • Promotional Objectives –
    • To increase awareness of the dangers of flowers in Wales from 12% to 25% by June 2009.
    • To increase trail of X washing powder from 2% to 5% of our target group by January 2009.
  • Objectives for Growth – To increase the size of our Scottish operation from £100,000 in 2006 to £200,000 in 2009.
  • Objectives for Branding – To make “zz-pop” brand of cola the preferred brand of 18-25 year old females in North London by February 2009.

SMART Objectives for ABC Ltd
  • Specific: To obtain 5% market share within the first year of operations within our industry.
  • Measurable: To sell 4000 units per month, which equates to approximately 5% market share.
  • Achievable: Taking into account primary and secondary research and facts from our market share data ABC Ltd do believe the objectives set are achievable.
  • Realistic: Considering the amount of financial resources and manpower expertise we at ABC Ltd do believe that objectives set are realistic.
  • Time: It is the expectation that the 5% market share objectives set for ABC Ltd will be achieved by the end of Dec 31st 2009.


Note – there is no single correct way to write a SMART objective. It will depend on the nature of the objective and the intended use. The real test is to compare the statement against the SMART criteria you have chosen to use… does the statement tick all the boxes?

In some of the samples shown, you are not given the CONTEXT of the objective so it is impossible to say if the objective is truly SMART from the information given.


Rewriting Existing objectives

Specific Concrete
Use action verbs
Example #1:
Original objective: xyz supports professional development for staff.
Specific objective: xyz offers Project Management, CRM, and Intro to xyz classes
quarterly with the goals of 80% of the divisional staff trained by June, 2008
Example #2:
Original Objective: The Learning to Teach Virtual Task Force will facilitate continuing
education for instructors.
Specific Objective: The Learning to Teach Virtual Task Force will create and update on a
quarterly basis a web-based site that contains a list of continuing education opportunities for
Numeric or descriptive
Quantity, quality, cost
Example #1:
Original Objective: The Conference Program Planning committee will increase attendance
at its program.
Measurable Objective: The Conference Program Planning committee will increase
attendance at its 2010 Annual Conference program by at least 10% over 2009.
Example #2:
Original Objective: The Committee will encourage nominations by members by creating
a Web-based nomination form that will be published on the xyz Web site.
Measurable Objective: The Nominating Committee will receive at least five nominations
by Section members through use of the new Web-based nomination form that will be
created and published on the xyz Web site.
Attainable FeasibleAppropriately limited in scopeWithin the employee’s control and influenceExample #1: Original Objective: Promote issues relating to bibliographic instruction and diversity.Attainable Objective: Complete an annotated bibliography of library instruction publications related to diverse populations for the xyz web site.Example #2: Original Objective: The Education Committee will foster communication between practitioners and graduate school faculty working in the area of library instruction.Attainable Objective: The Education Committee will organize a discussion forum to be held at xyz Conference 2008, and invite both practitioners and graduate school faculty working in the area of library instruction to attend and discuss how the graduate school can better prepare students for careers in library instruction.
Relevant Measures outputs or results (not activities)Includes products, accomplishmentsExample #1: Original Objective: The Teaching Methods Committee will identify and promote teaching materials useful to practicing bibliographic instruction librarians.Results-focused Objective: The Teaching Methods Committee will post discussion notes from the xyz conference Discussion Forum 2009 “Share Your Teaching Toolkit: Best Practices in Library Instruction” on its Web site to promote teaching materials useful to practicing bibliographic instruction librarians.Example #2: Original Objective: The Emerging Technologies in Instruction Committee will promote and facilitate the use of emerging technologies in bibliographic instruction.Results-focused Objective: The Emerging Technologies in Instruction Committee will develop documents that define, explain, and provide examples of uses of emerging technologies in order to assist educators who are considering or have already started integrating them in their courses.
Time Identifies target date(s)Includes interim steps and a plan to monitor progressExample #1: Original Objective: The Communication Coordinator will update the “xyz Publications Policies and Procedures Manual,” clarifying the various publications categories and the processes for creating, approving, and disseminating those publications.Timely Objective: The Communication Coordinator will update the “xyz Publications Policies and Procedures Manual” by the XYZ Annual Conference 2009, clarifying the various publications categories and the processes for creating, approving, and disseminating those publicationsExample #2: Original Objective: The Task Force will revise the current Model Statement published in An Owner’s Guide to the new Model Statement of Objectives for Academic Bibliographic Instruction (2007).Timely Objective: The Task Force will revise the current Model Statement published in An Owner’s Guide to the new Model Statement of Objectives for Academic Bibliographic Instruction (2007). The revision is being conducted in accordance with the 2006 Final




Which of these are SMART objectives?

SMARTer Objective? (Y or N)Changes needed to make the objective SMARTer (if not already)
1.To raise the average daily attendance rate to over 95 percent within the next 3 years.
2.To eliminate the use of excess packaging on our products by September 2005.
3.To increase the number of parents who set appropriate rules of their children’s behavior (as measured by surveys of parents or youth).
4.To reduce the number of drivers who report having had a drink or having used drugs to less than 1 percent of the school population by 2010.
5.To increase GCSE achievement rates to at or above national averages by 2009.
6.To increase by 25 percent the attendance of parents at school parent/teacher association meetings by 2010.
7.To reduce youth arrests related to alcohol and other drugs to below the national average by 2010.
8.To reverse the increasing trend of reported child abuse to under 300 cases by 2009.
9.To significantly improve staff satisfaction over the next 12 months.
10.To decrease the number of thefts from the shop floor by 20 percent over the next 3 months.



Other objective setting models and acronyms include:

SMAART goals are:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Attainable
  • A – Action-oriented
  • R – Results-oriented
  • T – Time-phased


SCCAMP objectives or goals

  • S – goals must be Specific
  • C – within the Control of the individual
  • C – goals are Challenging
  • A – goals must be Attainable
  • M – training targets should be Measurable
  • P – goals are Personal


TRAMS – as SMART – just that TRAMS is presented in a different order for training or educational purposes.


PURE Objectives (often used in objectives within learning events)

Where PURE means:

  • Positive
  • Understood
    • Performance
    • Style
    • Jargon
    • Culture
  • Recorded
  • Ethical

For team objectives

To make your team function effectively, the first thing you need to know is the GREAT model.

  • G – Goals
  • R – Roles/ Results
  • E – Expectations / Performance
  • A – Accountabilities / Abilities
  • T – Timing

The GREAT model specifies what people must know so that they can work together effectively.


  • What are the goals of the project?
  • What is the goal of each individual activity?
  • Why are we doing this?


  • What is my job as an individual team member?
  • What do I do?
  • What is the contribution I am expected to make?
  • What expertise do I bring to the situation?
  • What is everyone else’s role and everyone else’s expected contribution?


  • How good is “good enough”?
  • What is the level of performance that is desired?
  • What level of performance is not desired?
  • Why are the expectations set at this level as opposed to another?

Accountabilities / Abilities

  • Who is accountable for each phase of the work, especially on jobs that cut across functional lines or involve several people?
  • What abilities do we possess that have a hearing on the individual job assignments?


  • When must this be done?
  • At what pace am I to work?
  • How does the timing of one piece of the work affect other pieces?


Verbs to use in writing SMART-er Objectives

  • Activate address adjust analyze apply arrange assemble assess assist associate
  • Balance breakdown build
  • Calculate categorize center change charge check choose cite classify clean close combine compare complete compute conduct connect construct contrast convert copy count create critique
  • Define describe design detect determine develop diagram differentiate disassemble discharge disconnect display distinguish
  • Enumerate estimate evaluate examine, execute, explain
  • File fill form formulate
  • Grasp group
  • Identify illustrate indicate inspect install interpret
  • Label lift list listen locate make manage manipulate measure modify
  • Name
  • Order organize outline
  • Perform plan predict prepare prescribe produce proof purchase
  • Quote
  • Recall recite record reiterate repeat reply reproduce respond restate
  • Select serve solve specify
  • Tabulate tell test trace transcribe transfer troubleshoot use
  • Validate verify
  • Write


10 Tips for Setting SMART-er Goals and or Objectives

 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). Some of the tips may seem like no-brainers, but I find it’s usually the simple things that get forgotten or overlooked:
1. Sort out 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 stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

3. Don’t try to use the SMART order, 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.


History and origins of the SMART objectives acronym

There are many that claim to know the true history of the SMART acronym, however there is little documented evidence.

What I have found to date (Oct 08) is the following – it will be corrected and updated as I gain new information.

Many claim Drucker is the originator – I have researched this and cannot find any inclusion in any of his books, nor have I found a publication by him containing the term.

During the 1940s and 1950s there were many engineering and educational publications that started discussing the merits of “specific and measurable” goals or objectives. Interestingly the term mostly used in the very really days was that of goal setting rather than objective setting, even within technical environments. The fact that specific and measurable have been used almost since the beginning of the era of management and educational publications suggests that the foundations for SMART goals or objectives was widespread. Indeed reading many of the original pieces I have found that language like realistic, relevant, resourced etc have accompanied much of the early texts, so the ‘leap’ to the acronym or mnemonic was perhaps an organic one rather than one of innovation in its true sense. The use of specific and measurable goals was just as prevalent in the educational world as it was the business world.

So with that said who used the SMART description and in what publication…

Blanchard includes references to SMART in “Leadership and the One Minute Manager” (LOMM). In leadership and the one minute manager Blanchard uses the SMART objective acronym on p89. This book was first published in 1985. No references are noted and copyright is assumed. here SMART is – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Trackable. This appears to be one of the first books to use the acronym.

In their books Blanchard and Hersey use the term SMART goals. it is in the 1988 version (5th edition of Management of Organizational behavior). It is not in any earlier editions of the publication, and no references to the term exist. Again like Blanchards LOMM book the acronym is the same (p382). in this chapter the authors claim that much of the content is based on their work since 1981 (p377). Therefore Doran used the term before Blanchard.

The real beginning?

Some claim Paul J. Meyer used it in his work “Personal Success Planner” in 1965, although there is no documented evidence before November 1981 for this.

From Jim Moore – the Meyer family archivist –

“Mr Meyer first used the acronym in 1965.  However, the 1965 usage was in instructional text and was not then copyrighted as an acronym.  .


As you may be aware, John Haggai attributes the acronym to Paul (in Mr Haggai’s book, Lead On! – 1986) but without specific citation or other documentation.”

This is interesting as this publication date co-insides with the writing of the Blanchard book. The earliest printed evidence that meyer used the term is on a goal planning sheet from 1986.

Meyer and Blanchard have collaborated on projects so this could explain why it is included in Herseys and Blanchards seminal work.

The original version used by Meyer was:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic and
  • Tangible

Meyer users the term Tangible , however the most common version uses time bound – the Blanchard/ Hersey version.

Some claim that George T. Doran, developed the concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals in the discipline of project and program management and cite – George T. Doran, “There’s a S. M. A. R. T. Way to Write Management Goals and Objectives”, Management Review (AMA Forum), November 1981, pps. 35-36

Doran, George T. “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives.” Management Review 70.11 (Nov. 1981): 35. Business Source Corporate. EBSCO . 15 Oct. 2008.

These certainly appear to be the first published articles documenting the SMART Objective as we know it today, however all this appears to prove is that there is an earlier source.

One of the earliest publications applying goal setting directly to individuals performance is in:

GOAL SETTING AND SELF-CONTROL. By: RAIA, ANTHONY P.. Journal of Management Studies, Feb 1965, Vol. 2 Issue 1, p34-53, 20p; EBSCO . 31 Oct. 2008

And while this does not list the full SMART format it does talk about specific and measurable as well as requiring goals to be:

  • Authorised to complete the goal
  • Realistic and challenging
  • Tied to a completion date

So the elements are there – but not tied into the SMART formula. Incidentally this document also explores what may well have been one of the first individual performance appraisal approaches

We are continuing to work on establishing a record based on printed use of the acronym – and will keep this page updated. Indeed when the truth is proved we will re-write this pages and include all appropriate references.

In this document for me there is an enlightening paragraph:

“… Planning the Use of Resources — One of the most important aspects of the program is that it takes the manager away from the daily operations of the plant and forces him to plan the use of his resources. The process of goalsetting involves translating short-term company objectives into specific goals which are tied to a completion date. This helps to integrate the work of the individual with the overall objectives of the enterprise.”

If you know of an earlier source we would love to know (to be honest it is driving me nuts attempting to get to the bottom of this – MDM).


Uses of SMARTER Objectives

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

See our page on Key Performance Indicators KPIs and Critical Success Factors CSFs

Making it personal – WIIFM – PRISM

To enhance the effectiveness of any learning objective/goal setting some literature suggests adding
the elements WII‐FM (What is in it for me?) and Interest.

This creates the PRISM model which covers the 5 points of the SMART model as well as includes the additional 2 elements.

PPersonalWhat is in it for me? (WII-FM) When objectives are business.. business… business.. we sometimes forget that it is the humans that make things happen. people need to feel engaged.
RRealisticFor something to be realistic it has to achievable, both in the context of the individual, skills and resources available.
IInterestingIs it something the individual can get passionate about and fully engaged?
SSpecificBe clear, direct and get to the point
MMeasurableHow will you know the objective has been achieved? All objectives will need agreed success measures and a clear time frame.


Goal Setting or How Being SMART Isn’t Always the Right Objective (Avery, 2005)

See our article on exercises and activities for developing and writing SMART goals and objectives for managers or our book on Strategic Diagnostic tools

The information contained on this page about SMART and SMARTER objectives has been complied from a range of sources. © is not assumes over any model. This information is provided ‘as is’ and RapidBI accept no liability for its accuracy or its use.

Ready to use off-the-shelf training materials and trainers notesHave a look at our ready to use training materials – leader guide, participant handouts, ppt slides etc

SMART Objectives – page reviewed and updated June 2014 – first published on: Jan 29, 2007

READ  10 Tips for Setting SMART-er Goals and Objectives
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  1. Does your grant application have SMART objectives? http://rapidbi.com/WriteSMARTobjectives/

  2. Mike Morrison says:

    Historical post from our blog- http://rapidbi.com/WriteSMARTobjectives/ Pls RT

  3. Duncan Brodie says:

    RT @RapidBI: Historical post from our blog- http://rapidbi.com/WriteSMARTobjectives/ Pls RT

  4. RT @RapidBI: Historical post from our blog- http://rapidbi.com/WriteSMARTobjectives/ Pls RT

  5. Just shared the link of @RapidBI 's article on SMART objectives with my Business School students : > great article!

  6. Great article on #acronym #SMART. Many variations, very valuable. 'How to write SMART(er) obectives'

  7. Goed artikel over #acroniem #SMART. Veel variaties, erg bruikbaar. 'How to write SMART(er) obectives' #yam

  8. Answer those five questions not just in narrative form, but in SMART form: #2ndwave

  9. A3: Like @JunoConsult said, make the plan language SMART #nptalk

  10. Varsha Nanan says:

    RT @rapidbi: Write SMART objectives & Goals

  11. Great resource on SMART objectives from @Rapidbi http://t.co/UC6L28L9 – But I'm looking for examples

  12. Write SMART #goals this year. http://t.co/KIYUTZRA #leadership #dct100years

  13. RT @rapidbi: Write SMART objectives & Goals http://t.co/OVhrtTOv

  14. How to write SMART objectives and SMARTer objectives & Goals


  15. A5: Grant writing tip – Be realistic & accountable – write SMART objectives: http://t.co/Xuw8kv0n #fundchat

  16. A5: Grant writing tip – Be realistic & accountable – write SMART objectives: http://t.co/Xuw8kv0n #fundchat

  17. @rapidbi http://t.co/ZsBt6FAN <- great resource Mike :)

  18. RT @rapidbi: Write SMART objectives & Goals http://t.co/KlJ8Jlfs

  19. Augustina fashola says:

    It made a huge sense to me and helped me a lot in several ways

    How can I go wrong
    Thank you

  20. Useful article on how write SMARTER objectives: http://t.co/sOeTud6i

  21. MK Chamber says:

    Useful article on how write SMARTER objectives: http://t.co/sOeTud6i

  22. Write SMART objectives & Goals – #article http://t.co/hamf93Lv

  23. Write SMART objectives & Goals – #article http://t.co/hamf93Lv


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  2. […] How to write SMART Objectives and SMARTER objectives for business and personal development. Specific Stimulating Measurable Motivating Achievable Appropriate Realistic Relevant Time Timed.  […]

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