What are SMART objectives and how to write them?
Setting objectives is an important part of every organization. Objectives serve as a guide in terms of what they want to achieve. Unfortunately, almost everyone makes the mistake of generalizing their objectives. This does not lead to productivity but only wastes time accomplishing nothing.
The SMART objectives were created to help organizations set their goals and objectives the right way. By setting objectives this way, individuals and teams are getting themselves ready for increased productivity. They are able to focus their efforts, clarify their ideas, use their time and resources wisely, and increase their chances of achieving more.
The SMART objectives are a tool to guide organizations and individuals in goal setting. It stands for:
S-pecific M-easurable A-chievable R-elevant/Realistic T-ime bound
Specific means it should be able to answer the question, ‘what needs to be done?’ and ‘how do we know it is done?’ It should also describe the end result of the specific work to be done. By saying specific, it should be formatted in the way that everyone who reads it interprets it the same way. It will also help to use the 5 W’s namely:
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Who is involved in this?
- Which resources are involved?
- Where is it located?
- Why is it important?
From the word itself, measurable answers the question, ‘how do I know it meets expectations?’ It should also answer ‘how much’ or ‘how many’ is expected to be achieved. When checking for this, assessable terms should be used like costs, deadlines, frequency, quality, quantity, and others. Additionally, groups should make sure that objectives can be measured against any specific standard. There are two types of measurements, quantity measurement and frequency measurement. For the first one, examples would be percentages; while for the second one, it would have to be daily, weekly, or bi-weekly, among others.
There is just one issue with measurable objectives and that is they are difficult to formulate. As a result, objectives that add more value to the business are traded for those that are measurable.
Not everyone is equipped to do everything. Therefore, when making an objective, it is important to ask the question, ‘can I achieve it?’ It could also be ‘is this objective achievable by this person?’ People can also ask, ‘am I equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to meet the expectation?’ Furthermore, individuals and organizations should also take note of the constraints that can hinder them from achieving their goals. An objective shouldn’t be too high that it makes it stressful to even try to achieve it. It shouldn’t either be too simple or low because it wouldn’t push a team or individual to his limits. It should just be right, within reach, to ensure that it is possible without causing undue stress.
Goals and objectives are set to be achieved. If goals are not realistic, why bother making them? For example, if an individual desires to become a website developer in three hours, that is not realistic. Though a person’s capabilities should not be underestimated, objectives should be reasonable. This means that when setting an objective, it has to be practicable. One way to know is to look back if this specific objective has already been achieved in the past. If it has, there is a higher chance that it can also be achieved or surpassed this time.
Also, objectives have to be relevant which means that these should tie to the organization’s goals as a whole. This is best achieved by employees consulting with their managers on how they can formulate relevant objectives. In order for an organization to succeed, its employees should also aim for goals that are in line with the organization’s goals. Otherwise, organizations and employees will not harmoniously journey towards development.
Objectives have to have a deadline. Life moves fast and if people don’t have a timeline to follow, tomorrow may be too late. Deadlines are something that nobody likes, but they are important. Without setting a timeline, people will keep procrastinating and achieve nothing. Objectives that are time-bound answer the question, ‘when will it be done?’ In some instances, tasks have a fixed end-point or a milestone. Other times, a task’s end signifies the start of another.
Examples of SMART Objectives
In this article, we have made sample SMART objectives that can serve as a guide for making one’s own SMART objectives.
Not SMART: Increase sales by 100 percent.
SMART: To achieve $5,000 worth of annual orders of books to be spread throughout the four quarters of the year, with the 1st quarter hitting $1000, the 2nd quarter hitting $1000, the 3rd quarter hitting $1,500, and the 4th quarter hitting $1,500.
In this example, everything is stated clearly. The goal is specific which is to achieve annual orders worth $5,000. It is also measurable because the cost of these annual orders has been identified. The goal is time-bound because it specifies that the cost of orders is for a year, to be spread throughout the four quarters.
Not SMART: Improve the communication skills of employees by holding seminars.
SMART: Improve the written and spoken communication skills of 60% of employees by holding one seminar for every quarter of 2020.
This objective is SMART because it is specific, measurable (60% of employees), achievable, relevant, and time-bound (every quarter of 2020).
Not SMART: Pay off all debts by the end of this year.
SMART: Pay off $10,000 worth of debts in 48 months.
This example is very practical. The amount to be paid off is specified and identified as debt. A timeline is also set which is 48 months.
Variations to the SMART objectives
As many organizations see the effectiveness of using SMART objectives, several variations have been made to it. For example, there is SMART-C where C stands for challenging. Another one is SMART-S where S stands for sustainable. This is particularly good because the goals are intended to continue beyond the timeline provided.
Using SMART objectives has been proven helpful to individuals and organizations. But more than creating these objectives, employees or team members should have the drive and motivation to achieve these objectives. An organization’s success largely depends on the concerted efforts of the organization and its members.