If you’ve ever had to set a goal, it’s likely you’ve come across the SMART framework.* A SMART Goal is a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-related.
*(And if you haven’t, well you’re in luck, because we’ve written one of the most comprehensive guides to SMART Goals you’ll find on the internet.)
There’s two common misconceptions people tend to have about SMART:
- SMART covers all the aspects of an effective goal
- All goals need need to contain all five SMART criteria, all the time
You only need to read the original publication of the SMART Goals framework (written by George T. Doran in Management Review, 1981) to see why this isn’t the case – and was never meant to be.
The article is short (less than a page and a half). SMART is proposed as a very simple, practical solution for developing stronger goals and objectives.
He doesn't suggest it's the only way you can develop stronger goals. Nor is it suggested that all goals should fit all criteria. In fact, Doran says this will not always be realistic or desirable; you wouldn’t want to ‘lose the benefit of a more abstract objective in order to gain quantification’.
SMART simply represents five questions we can ask of our goals – to make them stronger. So what are the other questions we should be asking?
Enter... SMART ASSES
We’ve noticed there are five crucial aspects of goal-setting which SMART doesn’t cover. They are: Aligned, Streamlined, Seen, Evaluated and Scrupulous.
To have a positive impact on your business, it’s crucial that your goals link back to your strategy. Otherwise your team’s efforts could be counterproductive, or at the very least wasted.
People can only remember and focus on a certain amount of things, so you don’t want too many goals. While there isn’t a magic number, aim for as few as possible. And only set one if it’s actually important.
Goals can easily get forgotten, so it’s really important to discuss them with your team and give regular updates. Naturally, we’d also recommend displaying them on a TV dashboard, to keep them front of mind and allow your team to track their own progress.
As priorities change your goals may lose relevance, so it’s important to review them regularly.
Check that they still reflect what you’re currently aiming for, and that your team are still finding them helpful. And if the goals are no longer relevant, kill them rather than putting them on the back burner. Otherwise your team could lose confidence in the system and stop taking goals seriously.
It’s also good to schedule time each cycle for deeper reflection on what’s working or not working.
If a goal isn’t carefully considered it can have the opposite effect to the one you wanted — otherwise known as the Cobra Effect. To keep your goals watertight, you should track health metrics alongside them. These are metrics that you’re not directly trying to improve, but help you keep an eye on things. So if one of your goals causes an unintended consequence, you’ll be on top of it
When you’re setting your goals, don’t just think SMART: think SMART ASSES Yep, we saw the opportunity for a mnemonic so we took it.