SMART Objectives

SMART objectives is a subject I’ve covered before but one that I think is worthy of revisiting. In fact, I think it should be looked at on a regular basis as it can so easily be let slip. We cover it on most of our Leadership and Management training courses and whilst a lot of delegates say that they have come across the SMART acronym before, not everyone can honestly say that they use it consistently. 

SMART isn’t new or unique but it is a tried and tested formula for getting more achieved to deadlines; either by yourself but more so by the people you manage.

SMART is an acronym that, when applied to setting objectives, makes them quantifiable and therefor tangible. Failing to achieve objectives is demotivating; whether these objectives are set by you for yourself, set by others for you or set by you for others. Completing objectives gives us a sense of achievement and motivates us to continue on to do more.

There’s a few version of what SMART stands for, but here’s the one that we use:

Specific: Vague objectives aren’t objectives at all; just dreams or aspirations. Increase profit, grow your customer base, lose weight, get fit… these are all unspecific. To be SMART we need to add some parameters. Increase profit by 20%. Increase your customer base by 300. Lose five kilos. Run a 50 minute 10K. Now we’re specific and we have a proper target that we can visualise.

Measureable: We need to be able to quantify the outcome of our efforts and so have to be able to apply some kind of measurement. If your annual profit is £10,000 then you know what a 20% increase will look like. If your objective is to increase customer satisfaction by 10% you’re going to need something like a survey or other rating system to measure whether this has been achieved.

Achievable: I’ve already mentioned how failure to achieve is a demotivator. If your objectives are beyond what is truly feasible, you’re simply setting yourself, or your team, up to fail. Stick with what can actually be achieved. You might also want to add Agreed as another A here. If you’re setting objectives for a member of your team, they must agree and buy into it so you can hold them accountable.

Realistic/Relevant: Is the goal deliverable considering the available resources and external conditions? And is it worth doing? Does it contribute sufficiently to the overall objectives of the organisation or to your personal longer term goals? Avoid setting objectives for the sake of it.

Time Bound: Is there a deadline? Without one the objective becomes immeasurable. Increasing sales by 25% is okay but perhaps not if it takes 10 years to achieve. Make sure your time frame fits in with what is achievable and realistic. If you’re holding reviews or appraisals, setting objectives to be achieved by the next review is a good idea. That way you can tick off one objective and set a new one, or re-evaluate the employee’s performance if the objective hasn’t been met.

If you are setting objectives for staff, at performance reviews or appraisals for example, you should be using SMART objectives. If you would like further support with this subject call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail

02 February 2018, 13:45