Smart Goals

Author: Byron Pulsifer, ©2017


What does a 'smart goal' mean? Does a smart goal mean that you are more intelligent than another person? Does it imply that some goals are much better than others, and thereby become 'smart goals? Let's find out a little more and then you can decide.

Smart Goals Defined

SMART goals is reputed to have been developed by George T. Doran espoused in a paper he wrote and published in November 1981 in that's month's issue of "Management Review". Here is what Doran meant by SMART goals:

In the ideal world, each corporate entity, department within the organization, and the sub-section of a department should contain these objectives as follows:

Specific target a specific area for improvement.
Measurable quantify and/or set an objective (not subjective) indicator of progress.
Achievable state what results should be achievable given that required resources are available.
Responsible clearly indicate who is held responsible for the actions/meeting of targets.
Time-related specify by which date the result(s) must be achieved.

(Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria Doran, G. T. (1981). "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives". Management Review. AMA FORUM. 70 (11): 3536.)

Setting smart goals that include all the factors:, measureable, achievable, responsible, and time related, have a more of a chance of being successful than just stating what your goals will be.

SMART Goals As Related To Strategic Planning

Those of you who have been charged with preparing a strategic plan for your organization will assuredly see some related elements between a strategic plan and a SMART goal. With this having been said, it should be clear that a strategic plan must also indicate where the organization wants to go or what they want to attain within a given strategic cycle whether that is a yearly vision or a multi-year vision (depending on the organizational definition of the time period for a strategic plan) coupled with the operational details of how the organizational will achieve it's overarching goal.

Let's be clear about what a strategic plan is so that there is no confusion. And, despite what many people think is a high-level complicated process, it is not so. A strategic plan simply asks two key questions that must be answered; namely, where does the organizational want to go or what does the company want to achieve, for example, over the next year; and, secondly, how is the organization going to achieve its' overall goal? The second point merely asks for details about what is going to be done.

In essence, a strategic plan, which sets the tone of achievements for the overall organization, should not be as detailed as a SMART goal wherein, each sub-section of an organization fills in specific operational planning details of how it will contribute to the overall strategic plan.

At the lowest denominator of an organization, that is at the section or team level, the operational details will need to conform or be closely associated with the principles of SMART goal setting. In this fashion, the lowest operational section or sections must write their operational plan in yearly performance metrics so as to relate to the essential elements of a SMART goal. Performance metrics are those objective indicators that tell you if what was stated that was going to be done or initiated did, in fact, actually happen. If the performance metric was not met, it means that your responsible section, department, or division did not meet its' intended outcome.

SMART Goals At The Individual Level

Let me give you an example of a real person. A person who used a loose definition of goal setting to alter his life filled with drifting around in from one job to the next to one where there was a clear goal identified with resultant achievements. At this time, during the dirty thirties, no one had ever heard about 'SMART goals' but definitely knew about what it took to not only survive but to move forward.

SMART Goals Undefined But Applied Without Personal Knowledge

It wasn't always what was wanted, or even what was viewed as a calling. It was simply a job to pay the bills.

There was nothing really to hold him there for long, so with a few dollars in his pocket, he set out to find new horizons, new experiences, and new work. It wasn't an easy trip. He bought an old model T that was not in the best of shape but it almost got him to where he needed to go. But, as fate would have it, the old car broke down shy of one hundred miles from the State of California.

A Smart Survival Goal

Well, not to despair, his right thumb was good for more than just helping to pick up a glass or a fork; it was good for sticking out and signaling to drivers that he was in need of a ride. The times were tough but people were a little more friendly than now. Not so very long on the side of the road, his thumb managed to attract a trucker who stopped and picked him up.

From one state to the next and later up to the Dakotas - one destination as good as another when there is set goal to reach and no set objective to accomplish. After a few hard years working on a farm in the midst of the dirt thirties, off again back to Canada from whence he originated. From milkman to farmer's helper to playing the guitar learned by practice only to make a few bucks to buy some food. But, what to do?

What Would Make Him Happy?

Well, he knew that he loved to play the guitar and had a gift for helping others to learn to play so it seemed like a natural progression to go down this road (the 'Specific' element of a SMART Goal). But, he also knew that he needed to get his act together to learn musical notes and get students, find a place to live so he could start and keep going. He not only found a place to live but also placed an ad in the local newspaper to find students (the Measurable' element of a SMART goal). To his surprise, the students flooded in and he immediately dug right in and soon became known as one of the best teachers in his area (the combination of "Achievable, Realistic, Time Based" elements of a SMART goal).

"We must look for ways to be an active force in our own lives. We must take charge of our own destinies, design a life of substance and truly begin to live our dreams." Les Brown

A Destiny

Now, the plan grew bigger and he became accomplished in not only reading musical scores but also in musical composition. It was his time, and his destiny although he didn't realize or understand what engaging in SMART goal planning meant. He knew what he wanted and tackled it with unrelenting passion. So, for the next forty years he did what he enjoyed along with raising a loving family of four children. He played his guitar and taught music until his eighty-sixth birthday. A life dedicated to what he loved - his passion - a passion that he stretched to reach with continuous learning as his trusted sidekick along the road.

This was my Dad.

Inspirational Quotes for Reflection:

"You can do anything if you have enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes rise to the stars. With it, there is accomplishment. Without it there are only alibis." Henry Ford

"Every memorable act in the history of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no mater how frightening or difficult, a new meaning. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity but with it you can accomplish miracles." Og Mandino

"Trust yourself; believe that you have a unique destiny to fulfill." Candy Paull, The Heart of Abundance: A Simple Guide to Appreciating and Enjoying Life

"Finally, you need to believe in yourself. The problem why many people do not make is because they think that there are some special people who are supposed to make it." Pastor J.A. Clarkson, 10 Habits Of A Successful, Spiritual and Lasting Relationship


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