What are SMART Goals?
Business students are generally taught this acronym as part of their business curriculum in a business management courses, however, business leaders around the world often refer to this acronym to establish objectives for their organization. Note that it can also be put to use in our personal lives to help us focus on a particular task and to add organization to anything we do. SMART goals stands for:
4) Realistic (or Results Oriented), and
5) Time Bound.
By approaching an objective and identifying each of these elements, you will be able to ensure that you carry out your goal in an organized and effective manner.
By characterizing a goal with a specific objective, not only are you putting some thought into what exactly it is you are pursuing, but it allows you to truly define the task. A specific goal should be identified with a short statement that is brief and to the point. For example you may want to start with a goal to improve customer satisfaction. While this in itself is fairly broad, it is a specific objective that will get refined as we establish our SMART goals.
The next area to review is Measureable. A measureable goal is one that can be quantified. There needs to be a way to evaluate what it is you are doing, whether it is the goal of generating more revenue or improving customer satisfaction. As part of your plan, you may realize you need to create a survey to measure results. If you are using a survey, it would be a good idea to survey customers prior to implementing any changes so you can truly evaluate and measure the success or failure of the changes you make.
Next you want your goal to be Achievable! If your company has only increased sales by 4% at most in a given year over the past 10 years, then establishing a goal that is to improve sales by 20% is definitely not an achievable goal. Be realistic, but at the same time you want the goal to be just out of reach to give yourself, or your employees, something to stretch for. Not only can this be a great motivational tool, but it will bring personal gratification once achieved. In this situation, you may need to do a little research to find out what competitors have done in previous years, in regard to growth of sales. For our example above, you will now refine our goal to improve customer satisfaction and extend it. Our goal may now be, to improve customer satisfaction by 10%. You will be able to quantify this by comparing the results of customer surveys prior to actions you take to improve customer satisfaction with the results post action.
Establishing results oriented goals is kind of intuitive, after all, if you have established a goal it is generally to accomplish a task and therefore you are striving for a result. Setting aside my little rant, you want your goal to be results oriented. Some also refer to this R as Realistic; some say tomato, some say tomato. The primary purpose of this section of establishing SMART goals is to ensure that you define what result it is you are going after, in our case from the example above, we want to improve customer service by 10%. Our result in this case would be an improvement of customer service by whatever level we attain.
The final section is to ensure your goal is defined by a given time frame that is reasonable to achieve your goal. This element adds a touch of incentive and personal motivation to the goal being pursued. If you were just to say I want to increase sales by 10% and left it at that; that is great! In 5 years when you get there, you can pat yourself on your back and say you did it. Define the time. Some find great pleasure in feeling the crunch of time and it adds focus. If it is a large scale project, or a goal that has phases or structure, implement designated times to evaluate or assess where you stand while you pursue your objective.