S-M-A-R-T  Goals  and  Objectives

“People and their managers are working so hard to be sure things are done right, that they hardly have time to decide if they are doing the right things.

There are three types of business leaders:

  • Those who know the score and know they are winning;

  • Those who know the score and know they are losing; and

  • Those who don’t know the score.

Everyone will benefit from goals and objectives if they are SMART. SMART, is the instrument to apply in setting your and your organization's goals and objectives.

 What to consider when defining Measures

  1. Clarify your objective. Be sure that everyone involved is clear on the purpose of the measure.
  2. Create an operational definition. A good operational definition is very specific and descriptive and will produce the same results no matter who is doing the measure.
  3. Design your data collection procedure. For each measure, document the specific methods that must be used to collect data. The instructions should be so specific that all individuals following them will use the same process and obtain the same results.
  4. Confirm the validity of your measure. Validity refers to the extent to which a metric actually measures what it was designed to measure and drives the desired behavior.
  5. Document your definition and process to ensure standardization. It is critical that your operational definition and data collection procedure be documented so that the measure is standardized for use throughout the organization.

A common acronym in goal and objective setting is the so-called SMART goals

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Realistic

T = Timely


  • Goals should be straightforward and emphasize what you want to happen. Specifics help us to focus our efforts and clearly define what we are going to do.
  • Specific is the What, Why, and How of the SMART model.
  • WHAT are you going to do? Use action words such as direct, organize, coordinate, lead, develop, plan, build, etc.
  • WHY is this important to do at this time? What do you want to ultimately accomplish?
  • HOW are you going to do it? (By…)
  • Ensure the goals you set are very specific, clear, and easy. Instead of setting a goal to lose weight or be healthier, set a specific goal to lose 2 cm off your waistline or to walk 5 miles at a challenging pace.


  • If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. In the broadest sense, the whole goal statement is a measure of the project; if the goal is accomplished, the project is a success. However, there are usually several short-term or small measurements that can be built into the goal.
  • Choose a goal with measurable progress, so you can see the change occur. What will you see when you reach your goal? Be specific! “I want to read 100 pages of this book on my own before my next birthday” shows the specific target to be measured. “I want to be a good reader” is not as measurable.
  • Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to the continued effort required to reach your goals.


  • When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.
  • Goals you set that are too far out of your reach, you probably won’t commit to doing. Although you may start with the best of intentions, the knowledge that it’s too much for you means your subconscious will keep reminding you of this fact and will stop you from even giving it your best.
  • A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it and it will need a real commitment from you. For instance, if you aim to lose 20 lbs in one week, we all know that isn’t achievable. But setting a goal to lose 1 lb and when you’ve achieved that, aiming to lose a further 1 lb, will keep it achievable for you.
  • The feeling of success that this brings helps you to remain motivated.


  • This is not a synonym for “easy.” Realistic, in this case, means “do-able.” It means that the learning curve is not a vertical slope; that the skills needed to do the work are available; that the project fits with the overall strategy and goals of the organization. A realistic project may push the skills and knowledge of the people working on it but it shouldn’t break them.
  • Devise a plan or a way of getting there which makes the goal realistic. The goal needs to be realistic for you and where you are at the moment. A goal of never again eating sweets, cakes, crisps, and chocolate may not be realistic for someone who really enjoys these foods.
  • For instance, it may be more realistic to set a goal of eating a piece of fruit each day instead of one sweet item. You can then choose to work towards reducing the number of sweet products gradually as and when this feels realistic for you.
  • Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort! Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low sends the message that you aren’t very capable. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!


  • Set a timeframe for the goal: for next week, in three months, by fifth grade. Putting an endpoint on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards.
  • If you don’t set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can start at any time. Without a time limit, there’s no urgency to start taking action now.
  • Time must be measurable, attainable, and realistic.

To learn more about performance management best practices using Balanced Scorecards and SMART goals, check out our Balanced Scorecard Deployment Process training material and supporting templates.

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