What Are Smart Goals? – Examples, How-To, Best Practices

Part 1

What Are Smart Goals?

Smart goals is a goal-setting technique that allows leaders the opportunity to set actionable objectives that receive results. Many managers and leaders may use this method to further breakdown longstanding vague or unclear goals. Each letter in the acronym is a principle that can be used in the process to create goals that make sense.

  • S: Specific
    Goals should be well-defined and concentrated on a particular result. The idea is that when a goal is more focused, it will create more of a desire to fulfill it and see it through.
  • M: Measurable
    For a leader to truly understand if they are meeting a goal, there has to be quantifiable data to measure progress the process against. Targets and milestones are essential to proper goal setting.
  • A: Attainable
    While ambitious goal-setting is a great way to motivate a team, leaders have to make sure they are not setting objectives that are near impossible to meet. They have to be realistic and make sense for the current scope of the company.
  • R: Relevant
    Along with making sure goals are realistic, leaders need to ensure that the current business climate creates a relevancy for any projected objectives. If a target conflicts with a business model or the current financial environment is not conducive to the goal, then It should be discarded as it is not relevant.
  • T: Time-based
    Finally, for a goal to be truly actionable, it should specify a specific amount of time that goal tracking and assessment will take place. A measurable goal will not mean as much if it is not defined within a time period.

All five of these elements are meant to create a smooth and efficient goal-setting process.

Why Are Smart Goals Important for Goal-Setting?

Running a business is an overwhelming task in itself. Managing staff, operations, and processes can be daunting and leave little time to make sufficient goal-setting a priority. Smart goals are designed to help leaders concentrate and focus on creating objectives that are well-thought out and actionable. It is so easy to create a vague purpose that does not capture all of the elements needed to move forward in business. Therefore, Smart goals are meant to provide focus and motivation; which are two very crucial elements to goal-setting. It is also a process that anyone can engage in. It does not require a particular program or consultant to implement, so it is mostly a do-it-yourself goal-setting process that anyone can do.

Part 2

Examples of Smart Goals

Goals have to meet all five components to meet the criteria of a Smart goal.

  • Increasing customer retention by 90 percent this year – This goal can be a useful smart goal because it provides a focused and measurable outcome. It also sets a yearly period where the leader can analyze progress. Depending upon the business model and relevancy to the market, this can be a great goal.
  • Selling 30 percent more evening dresses in May, when weddings occur in our region – This uses all five of the components of the Smart goal model. It is specific, measurable, attainable, and it addresses the relevancy of the market within a particular time period.
  • Create a new website for my business by December 31st using a website development company to build the site and create a payment interface – While this one does not include an actual numerical measurement, it is specific, relevant to the entrepreneurial goal of the individual, and sets a time for the target to be met.
  • The sprocket department will raise sprocket production by 20 percent by the end of the year – Again, each component of Smart goals is on display. The sprocket department represents the group who is accountable, 20 percent is what is measurable, raising sprocket production is what is considered to be attainable and specific.
  • Gain two clients every quarter for my business by participating in monthly networking events – This is an excellent personal small business and entrepreneurial goal that addresses time, the number of clients needed to know if the goal is successful, how it relates to what is essential to the entrepreneur making it relevant and specific.
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Taking a look at these five examples can help leaders create a foundation for producing goals that address all factors that are important to setting objectives.

Part 3

How Can Leaders Set Smart Goals?

To begin the Smart goal-setting process, leaders need to determine what needs to be assessed and tracked. It makes sense for leaders to do some pre-work and decide on how they should start the process.

  1. Find a Problem

    Goals are meant to not only propel an organization forward but many times they are expected to solve a problem. Leaders need to look around and determine if there are any issues the company needs to address. Is employee turnover high? Are a lot of customers abandoning a product? Have recent marketing campaigns not yielded the results they were meant to? These are all issues leaders need to think about when moving to the next step of creating a goal.

  2. Ask a Lot of Questions

    After determining what the goal should address, leaders, should then speak with as many people who are impacted by that goal. They should develop questions that ascertain how the problem has affected them, their tasks, and their work environment. If it is customer related, then surveys should be distributed to see why they may not be responding to products or services as they used to.

  3. Start General and Vague

    It takes a process to build a goal. They should be well-thought out and developed after research and analysis. Therefore, it helps if leaders begin the process by explaining what they ultimately want to measure. Sentences like “I want to improve performance,” or “I want to decrease turnover,” establishes a starting point for the team to work from.

  4. Start with Specific

    Managers should take time to talk about the specificity of the original goal. It should address what the issue is, why it should be resolved, and the processed and procedures that would be involved in turning the problem around.

  5. Quantify It

    Create a measurable outcome for the goal. Add a percentage or numerical data point that can sharpen the goal that addresses the problem.

  6. Make Sure It Is Achievable

    This is when leaders need to check back in with all of those involved and make sure the goal is so far attainable. It needs to make sense, and those who have to help meet it are comfortable with their chances of fulfilling it.

  7. How Does It Relate

    Leaders then need to decide how the goal refers to the current business model. Does the target align with business principles and objectives? Can it be turned into a core initiative? These are questions leaders should ask during this portion of the Smart goal process.

  8. Plan for Time

    All those involved should then decide on a timetable for completion of the goal. This can also include a conversation about what the department or team can do to actually to reach that goal. The actions that need to happen to meet it should dictate how long it will take to complete it.

Part 4

Smart Goals: Best Practices

To create a more favorable situation to meet a Smart goal there are some best practices that leaders can implement. Smart goals by themselves are an effective way to develop targets, but there are somethings leaders can do to make them even more attainable.

  1. Involve Everyone

    All members of the team should be involved in the goal-setting process. Leaders can better identify problem areas that should be assessed if they have input from multiple parties. Many times, employees on the frontlines will identify issues that management might never see, but they are still major areas that need to be addressed.

  2. Be Transparent

    Leaders and managers should be open about each part of the goal-setting process. If progress is slow or someone has a better idea to meet an objective, then leaders can create visibility and create ways for others to offer helpful ideas.

  3. Help Team Members Prioritize

    There are going to be parts of the Smart goal-setting process that need to be reassessed as circumstances change. Leaders need to help their team prioritize tasks or ideas that may or may not be as important as they once were. There might be a lot that teams have to tackle, and it can quickly become overwhelming. Because of that, it is essential that leaders help set the tone for efficient task prioritization.

  4. Give Feedback and Seek It

    To make sure the process is moving smoothly, leaders need to give team members regular feedback about their performance in relation to goals. They also need to inquire about how they are managing the goal-setting process. Creating a Smart goal is a great first step, but everyone has to be held accountable for the work they are doing to meet it. Therefore, time for feedback should be included in each part of the process.

  5. Stay Away from Micromanaging

    It is natural for leaders and managers to become fully invested in the development and fulfillment of a Smart goal. However, the passion can lead to a tendency to micromanage. If employees need to learn new technology to fulfill the target or they have a different work philosophy than the leader, then it can create a need for leaders to micromanage. This will lower morale in employees and make them feel as if they are not trustworthy. Therefore, it is vital that leaders seek to step away from behavior like this.

Smart goals exist to make goal-setting more effective and focused. It is a way for leaders to make sure they have covered all bases in addressing a problematic issue that needs to be fixed. However, developing a goal around these components is not the only thing that leaders need to plan for. They first have to get feedback from their team members to make sure that the most pertinent needs of the company are met and assessed. They then need to begin the process of honing in on the goal and making it specific and measured. The result should be a clear and well-defined goal that work teams can move towards.