What are SMART Objectives?
SMART Objectives are defined as a set of objectives and goals that are put in place by parameters, that bring structure and tractability together. SMART goal setting creates a verifiable trajectory towards a certain objective with clear milestones and an estimated timeline to attain the goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for:
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Achievable
- R – Relevant
- T- Time-based
One of the most widely used words today, in this modern, technology-driven world is “SMART”.
This word is widely used in various industries because of high-efficiency and objectivity. SMART method also happens to be a very practical resource that certainly can be a lifesaver for relevant people working in competitive fields like marketing, sales, advertising, market research and similar.
Many objects that we use in our day-to-day lives such as phones, television and so on have this word prefixed to the name, such as “smartphone”, “smart television”. Now we all understand that this reference is made to something that within its qualities is intelligent, due to its operation and its technological development.
In the world of marketing, business and similar fields, SMART objectives have a totally different relevance. SMART objectives in the fields mentioned are for all those people who want to meet a specific goal. This is called the SMART method. It doesn’t matter, what the size of the objective or the goal is, this method is applicable to anyone or any organization or business that has a time-bound, relevant and clear objectives related to achieving their goals.
Many times, before starting a new project or implementing a strategy, it becomes a little difficult to define objectives straight away. So, to give your team members a proper objective to work with, start making an excellent approach by using the SMART method.
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SMART Method for SMART Objectives and Goals
Take a few minutes to clear your head; let us analyze through the SMART method to achieve SMART objectives and SMART Goals. With constant practice, it will be easier to apply this method. However, for starters let us understand what each alphabet in the word “SMART” mean.
S-SPECIFIC: Dwelling deeper into details is a good start. This is the beginning of everything, so put more attention and great efforts to take care of the minutest details. The important thing is to resolve issues surrounding what, when, where, who, with what and how. I have jokingly named this the 5 Wives and 1 Husband technique to remember the Ws and H.
More the information you can contribute, better will be the results and it will be easier for you to reach your goals since defining the path to reach your goals will be clearer. If you are heading an organization or are at a position where you are making strategic decisions for your organization or similar positions, from this point onwards, you will see if you have enough resources to achieve your goals or do you need to something extra to make things fruitful.
M-MEASURABLE: For a goal to be an objective clearly, you must have a quantitative way of measuring that you have effectively achieved it. For this, it is necessary to involve some numbers in definition, for example, percentages or exact amounts. If your goal is to get an ROI then you should say something like “increase the ROI by 23%”.
It is not enough just to say “increase the number of clients”, it is best to do an analysis of the clients that you have now, of those that you need to get, as well as the total number of client to be achieved in a certain period of time, which is also important to define clearly.
The more quantitative data you have, the more control you can have over the advances.
A-ACHIEVABLE: Did you know that many objectives are not met because they seem impossible? Many others remain in the air because they are little presumptuous.
It is advisable to know that there is going to be difficult tasks to achieve and that you have no choice but to achieve them. We all want to be the first to achieve something and that feeling can be a motivator for some people, however, setting virtually impossible goals can make the team frustrated. So to avoid negations, to make an objective achievable, you need a prior analysis of what you have done and achieved so far. This will help you know and understand the leap you want to take or a step back and analyze what you have missed.
R-RELEVANT: To define relevant and realistic goals, you must measure the scope of your potential and of those who are associated with you in your organization or business. One very important aspect of setting up relevant goals is to know if you have the right resources to achieve it.
In addition, it is important here to remove the believes that commonly adversely affect such as “I cannot”, maybe it will be easier to create a realistic and attainable goal. Relevant goals can only be achieved if you have everything in place, right from the ideation stage to knowing the resources that are going to help you achieve these goals.
Remember that unreachable goals should not be thrown overboard. It is essential to make new strategies and stay persistent to achieve these goals. This will not only send out a positive message amongst employees but also befitting replies to your competitors who have ever doubted your abilities to succeed.
T-TIME-BASED: Perhaps this is one of the most important factors that determine whether or not an objective is met. If you do not put a start time and an end time, chances are you never achieve the objective.
Schedule and put a time to the objective. This will help you to know if what you are doing is optimal to reach the goal in time, or maybe it would be better if you give a little more speed.
In case you are a little out of time and you are not reaching the goals in the period you defined, do not worry, you should also learn to be flexible. Just do not abuse this flexibility as there is a thin line with breaking commitment.
Why should you clearly define Objectives and Goals?
Do you know what is the importance of objectives and goals?
- Time doesn’t pass in vain for anyone, more importantly not for organizations or businesses. Every minute, every second a new idea is conceptualized and with these ideas growing, there is a growing competition out there.
- Every day there is a new organization or business that is ready to give a tough competition to its counterparts and competitors. In this competitive atmosphere, it is also essential to win customers and also understand customer satisfaction levels. Not only this, you have to constantly monitor to verify that every department in your business or organization is working efficiently just like a perfect machinery.
- This may sound like a tedious process in which one question leads you to more questions and then it seems like a never-ending story because not everyone knows how to land their thoughts. Remember, putting down your goals and objectives on a paper will help you put your thoughts and your imagination to work in reality.
To summarize it in a very short and very significant sentence: walking without objectives is like navigating without a compass. Imagine the immensity of the open sea and you in the middle of it, it is a moment in which you do not know what to do, nor do you know the resources you can count on and much less know which side of the ocean or sea will be better to go.
The best thing is to start making some kind of effort to move forward, right? You cannot stay there, however, it is difficult to know at that stage, if everything you are doing will have optimal results and will bring you closer to the right path. The most likely thing is that these efforts might exhaust you and you do not know if everything you did will be worthwhile for something, on the contrary, if you know the goal you should reach, it would be easier to use your energy to achieve it once and for all.
The same happens with the objectives of a company. From the particular to a general, people, groups, and systems need clear, structured and well-defined objectives. We all have an end to this life and we cannot get up everyday thinking about facing when are we approaching the end because in this way there will come a time when we feel that we are not doing enough to sustain in this world.
Management by Objectives (MBO)
SMART goals and objectives are directly derived out of management by objectives (MBO). This was an effective way of completing tasks by prioritizing objectives. SMART goals are a primary way to collect feedback and communicate within the organization. Feedback is important because it showcases the room for improvement and is an insight into the company. Feedback includes periodic checks to measure current result vs expected and current result vs end objective. The progress can be recorded by asking basic questions like:
- Is the plan being executed in the right manner?
- Are the efforts tangible that they are aiding to the progress of the project?
- Are changes required to be made to the current plan?
SMART objectives help break down these questions and goals even further where scope of every milestone is measured. SMART objectives helps in setting up smart goals and play an important role in checking periodic progress so that the end objective is met. SMART goals help in following through on goals and prevent from getting distracted. Through SMART goals, different objective goals can be set up, namely:
- Long Term Goals: These include tasks or projects that span across years, like research projects. SMART goals are set on a periodic basis to monitor progress and map deficit to completion of the project.
- Intermediate Term Goals: These goals usually stretch out for a quarter or a few months. SMART goals help in setting up a milestone based approach where efficiency helps in reducing the time to completion.
- Short Term Goals: Short term goals are worked out on the basis of small pieces of work that can take days and even hours. This goal setting is important to avoid all distractions and meet deadlines.
Principles in setting up SMART Goals and Objectives
The “how” of setting up SMART goals and objectives is as important as each acronym in the process. The principles of goal-setting theory are:
- Clarity: There has to be absolute clarity in the goal and objective setting process as well as the end objective so that task based or milestone work isn’t hampered by ambiguity.
- Challenge: If the objectives become repetitive or aren’t stimulating enough, boredom sets in. To avoid this, the SMART objectives need to be challenging enough.
- Commitment: This goes without saying that lack of commitment is a recipe for disaster as it derails goal and objective management.
- Feedback: Periodic feedback is a prerequisite for effective management of objectives and goals. People operating without feedback do not know if their efforts are moving the project towards completion in the right manner and can get easily disoriented and disinterested.
- Task Complexity: Complex tasks take precedence over menial tasks because the people doing them aren’t motivated to work on something that is below their intellectual capability. Hence it is important to find that right blend in SMART goals and objectives where the tasks are complex enough to complete but stimulate the brain of the person completing the task.
Importance of SMART Goals and Objectives
- Clarifies end objective: SMART goals and objectives provide an end-objective. Setting them provides all relevant stakeholders an idea of the amount of work to be put in and the outcome of this effort. There is no ambiguity then in the respective role of a person and the value a person adds to the team.
- Effective time management: When the end goal or objective is known well in advance, it is easier and efficient to work. This also reduces the waste of resources and helps manage work smarter in case of replication of personnel.
- Reminds you of priorities: SMART objectives help in constantly being aware of the work to be done for the upcoming milestone. SMART goals help in being aware of the end goal to be achieved in the project.
- Obliges to take action: Due to the nature of periodic check model of SMART goals and objectives, it obliges the person carrying out the tasks to work and meet the milestones.
SMART Objectives and Goals Examples
Here are a few examples to help your strategize and define your organization’s SMART objectives and Goals :
- It is true, that defining objectives requires, time, patience and also the complete know-how of how an organization functions but above anything else it needs clarity. For example, many organization fail in defining clear objectives and that reflects in many ways. But with SMART objectives and method, it is possible to clearly define goals.
- To clearly define objectives one may need to sit down and ask questions, for example, “What is that I would like my organization or business to achieve? Why do I want to achieve these targets? Do I have the necessary resources to achieve these objectives?”, among many other questions that you need to ask yourself, let’s accept it feel like this is boring and absolutely unnecessary.
- You might be even tempted to think that the process is a complete waste of your time and instead of wasting your valuable time on speculating and penning down your thoughts it is advisable to get down to do some real work and start with the action plan, take a step back and think, do you even know how many companies have suffered bankruptcy because they didn’t feel the need to define their objectives?
- Taking actions even before concretely understanding facts and figures will not take you anywhere. On the contrary, this will waste your time, effort, work, quality and even your reputation in the market. While you may have decided to start functioning without a plan, there are hundreds of companies that take the time to do it step by step and then achieve the objectives in a faster way, winning customers, taking away place and even unseat everything you have already achieved.
- To avoid all the tragedy previously reported, are you still thinking that this is a waste of time? Do you still believe that it is better to postpone it? If your answer is NO, congratulations! SMART method is easier than you imagined it to be.
Let us take an example to understand how SMART objectives and SMART goals help save our time. Image an organization that works for removing plastic bags and similar waste from the entire city has objectives and goals defined as:
“Our goal is to make the entire city clean and free of any plastic and plastic waste”.
This goal is a little vague. However, if the objective and goal were rewritten as, “As an organization, we aim to clean the city and make it free from any plastic waste in the next two years with the help and support of our volunteers.”
Second time when the goal and objective were rewritten, it has a certain timeline, specific activity is mentioned, who will be helping the organization is clear and what they want to achieve is quite certain.
In this manner, people who are associated with the organization know what their tasks are, what is the timeline in which they need to achieve it. This helps avoid any confusion and activities go on smoothly without hesitation.
Advantages of SMART goals and objectives
- They are not vague: Since SMART goals and objectives are extremely procedural, each milestone and feedback is planned and monitored in complete detail. This mitigates the factor of uncertainty.
- Missed work is easy to track: Each person is given a certain responsibility and hence when work is not completed, it is very easy to troubleshoot the gaps in delivery. This makes everyone extremely accountable and any loss of work is easy to track.
- Goals are divided into small achievable objectives: SMART goals have an end goal but SMART objectives are further divided into bite sized milestones. Hence, no matter the scale of the end goal, it is very easily achievable.
Disadvantages of SMART goals and objectives
- No importance to other tasks: Due to the rigidity of the system, all other work gets ignored. Also, there is lesser scope for innovation or trying to complete work differently because the work is milestone based.
- Lots of pressure: There is immense pressure to complete work in a given time frame and this makes the environment extremely stressful and tough to work under.
- Different interpretation by different people: The pressure to complete goals and objectives are open to interpretation to different people. The urgency or rigidity of the process is construed differently by different people.
SMART objectives and Goals are an important part of a company’s growth. It is essential that the Managers and Directors of Marketing, Sales, Human Resources and many other areas, are fully involved in defining these goals
For all, the growth of the company also implies personal growth. The only way to achieve this is by having order, and structure that clearly defines the objectives.
Do not waste more time doing actions that won’t yield the desired results. Start defining your SMART objectives and give your team enough reasons why they should get down to work as soon as possible. Giving them a good goal is part of the motivation everyone in the organization needs. Remember increasing team productivity is always favorable and does wonders to achieve overall growth of the organization.