Goal setting is certainly an important aspect of running a business or organising a project. When you set SMART goals within your business, your team experiences a range of benefits. Ideas are clarified, you can focus your efforts, use your time and resources productively, and also increase your chances of achieving your goals.
A range of business activities can apply SMART goals, from marketing activities through to operations decisions. Business intelligence solutions can also aid in measuring the effectiveness of these goals.
Read on to learn more about how to set SMART goals and the positive influence they can have on your operations.
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What does SMART mean?
The acronym ‘SMART’ is basically a goal setting framework. It is commonly attributed to Peter Drucker and his 1954 guide to business management, Practice Management.
Since the original acronym was created, the general consensus surrounding the terms involved has shifted. You may therefore find different sources associate different words to each letter in the acronym. However, the basic concept and sentiments remain the same. BDI uses the following terms:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
Some other organisations also use an extended form of this acronym, such as SMARTER. In this version, the acronym expands to include an Evaluation and Review element to the goal framework.
Each element within the SMART acronym correspondingly involves its own considerations and questions that goal-setters should think about. The following sections therefore explore these criteria.
Goals should be clear and specific in order for teams and individuals to focus their efforts.
When creating your goals, try and answer the following questions (also known as the five ‘W’ questions).
Answering these questions not only help you to set more specific goals for your teams but also help identify what resources are available to your organisation. This not only refers to economic capital but also to the skills your team members can apply to the tasks at hand.
Having measurable goals allows your team to track progress and stay motivated. This, in turn, helps your team stay focused, meet deadlines, and feel excited when getting closer to your goal. One way to check if your goal is measurable is to ask yourself ‘how will I know when this goal is accomplished?’
Tracking progress allows your team to make adjustments if success looks unlikely. This provides a positive learning experience, and an opportunity for experimentation to find different ways of completing tasks.
Your goal needs to be realistic and attainable to be successful. This doesn’t mean that your team should deliberately set easy goals with a low bar, but rather that you should consider what is within your abilities.
For example, a small company trying to triple their social media base on a small budget within a short period is not an achievable target. Not only are there financial limitations constricting this work, but there are also other unpredictable external factors such as social media algorithms that can change overnight.
When trying to set achievable goals, first identify any previously overlooked opportunities. For example, is there something that you couldn’t do previously because of time limitations? Also, be sure to identify any available resources that can bring you closer to your goals. This not only includes economic capital but also wider skillsets within your organisation.
Relevant to wider business goals
An easy way to check if your goal is relevant is to check whether it aligns with your organisation’s wider values and other pre-existing goals.
Some simple key questions can help you assess the relevance of your goals. For example:
Considering whether now is the right time to be pursuing a goal is particularly important. The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how quickly existing business practices and established social and economic circumstances can change almost overnight. PESTLE analyses are therefore crucial to planning goals and strategies.
Try and set goals that you have control over, rather than something that is going to be up to chance or have too many external factors.
Each goal needs a target date. Setting an endpoint creates a deadline for teams to focus on, motivating them to work towards it.
This element of the SMART criteria helps prevent everyday tasks from taking priority over long-term goals.
One way to manage working towards time-based deadlines is to break your deadline down into smaller chunks. What can be done six weeks from now? What about six months from now? And what can your team do today?
Benefits and drawbacks of setting SMART goals
As with any business framework, there are benefits and drawbacks to setting SMART goals.
For example, SMART goals benefit teams by providing the clarity, focus, and motivation needed to achieve specific goals. Less time and money is wasted, as specific targets are set within an organisation’s means.
However, some argue that the method doesn’t work for long-term goals, as there is not enough flexibility and room for adjustment. This is why some organisations use the SMARTER acronym instead when setting their business goals.
To summarise, setting SMART goals means setting targets that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. This in turn helps your teams to stay motivated and on track for accomplishing these goals.
The SMART goals framework has been criticised for not working for long-term goals, as there is not enough flexibility and room for adjustment. However, this issue is also resolved by using the SMARTER acronym instead, which encompasses an evaluation and review process within the framework.