Master the Art of Writing SMART Goals

Master the Art of Writing SMART Goals

Trying to grow personally or professionally as an individual or a company without goals is like trying to win a race without knowing where the finish line is. There’s no indication of the correct direction, no sign of when success is achieved, and little motivation to try. The SMART goals system guides in writing specific, measurable, achievable and actionable, relevant and results-based, and time-bound goals, which provides the guidance needed to accomplish them.

Specific goal setting

People often create goals such as “increase sales” or “get rich,” but those vague ideas rarely result in successful attainment. To be effective, goals must be specific, including the what, why, and how of the desired outcome. Instead of “get rich,” a SMART goal example might be “earn $1,000 more each month for the next five years” or “sell five more widgets per day.” Depending on the goal, it might also be appropriate to include the who in the goal: “To increase revenue, the sales team will implement the new sales call program, using clearly defined processes and guidelines, by August 31, YYYY.”

In determining the specificity, it’s important to differentiate between a dream and a goal; “get rich” is a dream, while “earn $250,000 each year” is a goal. SMART goals are usually smaller, short-term goals that lead to long-term goals and dreams.  While they need to be specific and detailed, these goals should still be stated fairly simply so you can focus on meeting them.

Measurable goal setting

One key component to any successful goal is measurability: you must be able to tell if and when you reach each goal. Generally, all goals should include numbers. For example, a shy person who wants to be an active contributor to a team might change “be more confident” to “raise my hand to speak at least twice in every team meeting.”  Sometimes, the measurability unit might also be the date by which the goal is to be met. If writing a goal for a longer period of time, consider adding milestones at the halfway point and, if appropriate, even more frequently, to help keep everyone on track. An easel sign or whiteboard serves as a good way to keep the goal in the minds of the team.

Achievable goal setting

This component may be challenging to set; it represents a fine line between a good goal that includes some risk and stretches everyone and an unrealistic goal that is impossible to achieve. To be achievable, a goal must fit with the knowledge, skills, and abilities of team members; “perform brain surgery” is not an achievable goal for someone with no medical training of any kind. To introduce a goal that includes skills the team currently doesn’t have, you might need to write other goals that address gaining that knowledge.

Goals need to be action-based, including one or more action verbs in each. For example, write “enter sales data into a spreadsheet three days each week” instead of “be more consistent with data entry.” Provide tools that help team members organize and report their progress, such as color-coded folders or related software.

Results-based and relevant goal setting

If team members can’t see the relevance of the goals, they’re unlikely to be motivated to work hard to achieve them. The goals need to reflect the current business structure and climate; the middle of a recession might not be the best time to set “double our sales” as a goal. Relate goals to the company’s business model and objectives. A B2B company shouldn’t include “release a new consumer product” as a goal, unless another goal is to expand into the consumer sales realm.

It’s important to measure results, rather than activity. “Add one new customer per week” is more useful than “Find the names and addresses of potential customers. Call potential customers. Mail catalogs to potential customers.” All of those may be activities used to meet the goal, but the goal itself needs to focus on the results over the process.

Time-bound goal setting

Creating a positive sense of urgency is a strong motivator for reaching goals and setting deadlines is the easiest way to create that mild urgency. Think about how often realizing a deadline looms has freed your creativity, making ideas flow quickly; the same is true when setting goals. Instead of setting one deadline that requires a huge leap forward, use a wall calendar to set multiple, shorter end-dates and milestones along the way.

Mastering SMART goals not only makes you a goals expert, it makes your objectives more practical and effective. Browse Quill for tools to help in setting and reaching goals.