SMART Goals & SMART Objectives

What are they and how to set them in business and for personal development

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SMART Goals & SMART Objectives what are they and why we need them

SMART Goals and SMART Objectives are what make us "move" forward. We all strive for something in both our professional and personal life. To fulfill our dreams we need structured and verifiable trajectories.

By having SMART Goals and establishing SMART Objectives we’ll know what we want to achieve or where we want to reach, and also how to accomplish all that.

We can't just go with the flow and orient ourselves along the way because we’ll end up "moving" through life quite randomly. Without a clear destination, milestones and an estimate of attainability our dreams may end up only dreams without any continuity or correspondence in real life. To achieve our SMART Goals, it is necessary to act.

The Objectives are the ones that help us to focus our energies in a certain way to try to find solutions, to be creative. The objectives must be linked to each other and lead you towards fulfilling your goals. It must flow from one another, to follow one another or at least one to support another. The SMART Objectives are those that realistically, concretely and measurably help us to take the necessary successive steps in the direction of our goals.

The difference between Goals and Objectives

A Goal is the target that we aim for, a distinct purpose, and is achievable through objectives and activities.
By setting Goals we provide ourselves with a direction, a clear focus and a motivation to evolve and to advance in both our personal and professional life.

The Objectives are the determining steps that direct us to the full completion of our goals. The outcomes of the Objectives are directly contributing to the achievement of our goals.

  • the destination described in a broad and general way
  • establish where you intend to go and tell you when you get there
  • tells where you want to go
  • increase your overall effectiveness
  • typically described in words
  • specific and measurable activities toward goals
  • establish exactly when and how to get there
  • tells exactly how to get there
  • make you more efficient to back your goals
  • come with numbers and specific dates

What does SMART stand for in SMART Goals and SMART Objectives

S.M.A.R.T is the acronym that comes from the criteria on which we can guide in establishing our goals and the related objectives. Each letter defines one different criterion:

Specific: straightforward defined, precise and unambiguous.
Measurable: With specific points of reference that measure whether you are progressing or not
Achievable: possible to successfully be reached
Relevant: With certain importance to your purpose
Timely: a defined timeline for completion

How SMART Goals and SMART Objectives came about

In 1968 Edwin A. Locke (born January 5, 1938), an American psychologist developed the Goal Setting Theory. His research shows that setting specific goals leads to higher performance and that the harder is the goal the higher will be the performance.

Later, in 1981, George T. Doran (born August 4, 1939), consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company, published There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives. The paper debates the importance of the difference between the terms Goals and Objective and also about the importance of setting them in a company.

Goals represent unique executive beliefs and philosophies. They are usually of a form that is continuous and long term. For example (1) Conduct all corporate activities with honesty, integrity, and fairness; and (2) take an active role in community activities and practice good corporate citizenship.

Objectives, on the other hand, give quantitative support and expression to management’s beliefs. For example: To develop and implement by December 31, 198… an inventory system that will reduce inventory costs by 1 million, with a cost not to exceed 200 work hours and $15,000 out-of-pocket initial expenditures
George T. Doran

In this paper, George T. Doran defines what he called a guideline for SMART Goals and SMART Objectives. Not absolutely all the Goals and Objectives must be SMART, but the closer they get to meet the criteria, the more they will positively influence the organization's management.

The criteria established by George T. Doran as guidelines for setting SMART Goals and SMART Objectives are

Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
Assignable – specify who will do it.
Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved

Other variants that have been used to define the 5 criteria are:

S:     Strategic, Specific
M:     Motivating
A:     Agreed, Attainable, Achievable
R:     Resourced, Reasonable, Results-based
T:     Trackable, Time-based, Time/cost limited, Testable

How to meet the criteria of SMART Goals

S specific Clearly define what you are going to accomplish.
  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • How will this be done?
M measurable Identify criteria for measuring progress:
  • How can the performance be verified?
  • What tells when the goal is reached?
A attainable How plausible is the fulfillment of this goal
  • What are the necessary resources and capabilities?
  • It has been accomplished before?
R relevant Does it have a positive influence on the overall vision?
  • Where will this goal take you?
  • Does it represent substantial progress?
T time-bound Create a sense of urgency to increase motivation
  • When does it start?
  • By when must be completed?

How to meet the criteria of SMART Objectives

S specific Define what you expect and who will do it
  • Use action verbs
  • Provide enough detail
M measurable Choose how to evaluate progress. These can be
  • quantity metrics quality metrics
A attainable Make sure you have the necessary resources
  • manpower, authority
  • consider factors beyond your control
R relevant The objectives must converge towards the fulfillment of the goals
  • Which is the outcome?
  • Is it aligned with the main goal?
T time-bound Create a sense of urgency to increase motivation
  • When it starts and by when it must be completed?
  • Does it fit into time-lined benchmarks for the main goal?

SMART Goals and SMART Objectives in Business

In business as in any other field, the SMART Goals represent the destination and the SMART Objective are the specific steps towards achieving it.
The better the goals are set, the clearer the objectives will become, and the results will be more satisfying. Business objectives are generally related to development, problem-solving, innovation, day-to-day work, profitability.
A way of defining SMART goals is to identify the problems existing in the company in the areas described above. The solutions to these problems can be established as SMART Goals. For instance, any innovative approaches that could make your business more effective in the future can be defined as a SMART Goal for Innovation.

Example of SMART Goals in Business

Goal: Increasing the number of potential customers
SMART Goal example: Increasing the number of potential customers by 3% via email marketing in the next 6 months

Goal: Reduce business costs
SMART Goal example: Reduce business costs by 3%, by reducing rental costs and utilities during the following 6 months

Goal: Increase my revenues
SMART Goal example: Increase my revenue by 3%, by acquiring 10 new clients within 2 months by asking for referrals.

Goal: Improve product quality
SMART Goal example: Improve product quality by 3%, by implementing the new procedure by the end of the year

SMART Goals and SMART Objectives for personal development

Throughout our entire lives, we seek to develop ourselves from a personal point of view. For this, we get involved in activities that improve our quality of life and contribute to the realization of our dreams and aspirations, in other words, to achieve our personal goals.

The life goals we are trying to achieve through these activities can be included in different categories like career goals, academic, physical, creative, monetary, ethical. All these refer to what we want to achieve in that field, such as what career we want to take or what skill we want to develop in a certain sport or how much money we want to earn.

Among the activities we undertake, so that our personal development will lead us to the achievement of our objectives, are the improvement of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and social relations, enhancing lifestyle, developing strengths or talents and time-management skills.

Setting personal goals helps us focus on what we want to achieve, to be or to go with our lives. That is why it is advisable to set clearly defined personal goals, to adapt them according to circumstances, and to evaluate our achievements to keep sight of our progress.

Setting SMART Goals and SMART Objectives for personal development is remarkably useful. Since your goals are the destination that you want to reach out and the Objectives are the specific and measurable activity that you must undertake to reach your goals, you need to make sure that both of them are:

  • Specific - Your goal is well defined and the way to achieve it is clear
  • Measurable - You have established a way to find out at certain times if you are on the right path
  • Attainable - Set bold but realistic goals
  • Relevant - Set goals that are useful for you and your personal life
  • Timed - Deadlines will help you focus and avoid procrastination

Once you have set your personal SMART Goals and SMART Objective, review them regularly to make sure they are still relevant to you and, if necessary, to adapt them to the current situation.

Download the form to set SMART Goals with related SMART Objectives and possible issues

Mariana Holostenco

Contributor at PlanArty

Economist with a degree in Marketing and International Economic Affairs. Mariana is passionate about efficient time management in business. Therefore, she shares with our readers and our team members her knowledge and experience in this domain.