Smart Goals

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

– Yogi Berra

A goal is defined as “an aim or desired result; the destination of a journey; or the object of ambition or effort.”

Think about your personal goals or your organization’s goals. Goals provide focus and purpose to align and energize actions. Without goals, actions are often aimless, and strategies have little foundation. And, often, one of the most challenging parts of developing a robust strategy is clearly and concisely defining and articulating the goal.

Organizations without clear-cut missions, visions, and goals often find themselves mired in chaos, as each team individually pursues what they believe is right. As Michael Porter once said, “The company without a strategy is willing to try anything.” On the flip side, organizations with a clear-cut mission, vision, and goals, are driven with purpose, aligned and coordinated, and fueled by wins along the way.

There are typically thousands of goals within an organization, whether they are the highest-level annual goals of an organization, the quarterly goals of a department, the weekly goals of a project team, or the daily goals of an individual. And, all goals share some commonalities. A goal has a beginning and an end. A goal can typically be broken down into sub-goals. Activities should be aligned toward achieving a goal.

When creating or evaluating a specific goal use the acronym SMART…Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.



How do you determine and develop SMART Goals?

Determining and developing great goals is tricky. You need to understand the current baseline from which you are projecting a goal into the future. You need to problem-solve obstacles and bottlenecks that are constraining your ability to achieve a goal. You need to expand the realm of possible paths to achieving the goal. Then you need to pick the optimal strategic path that will enable you to achieve the goal. And, so goals can be a bit of a chicken and egg. While you can throw a goal out there, the real trick is building the strategy to achieve a goal, and in creating the strategy, you may get new insights into what the goal should indeed be. We’ll go over many of the tools to help you through this journey. And, whether you are merely given a goal, or get to develop your own goal, you will be prepared with the tools to achieve the goal.

Regardless of where you start, as you think about determining and developing goals, here are some of the best practices:


Focus on Important Outputs

You and your team, department, and organization do things, create things, and try to make things better. Whatever these things are, you should focus them on some sort of output. And, in some way, those outputs will be tied to financials, customers, processes, projects, or people. Focus your goals on those outputs that are critical to improving.


Baseline the Present

One of the most important steps to setting a goal is to objectively understand your current performance. If you want to run a 7-minute mile, well what can you run a mile in today? Goals are the relative measurement of progress from today to some point in the future. And, it is critical to establish the baseline from which activities and actions create progress towards a goal.


Create SMART Goals

When you create goals think through the filter of SMART. An easy shortcut to thinking through SMART Goals is to ask the following questions:


• Specific
– What are we trying to accomplish with this goal?
– Will others easily understand this goal?
– Is this goal specific enough, too specific?

• Measurable
– How will we know when the goal is accomplished?

• Attainable
– What are the plan and the initiatives necessary to accomplish this goal?
– Is this goal reasonable? Do we have more than a 60-80% chance of accomplishing it?
– Do we have the resources to accomplish it?

• Relevant
– Is this goal really important right now? Why?
– Does this goal reinforce our mission, vision, and values?

• Time-Bound
– When is the due date for this goal? Start date?
– Is this a reasonable due date?



To get you going on creating SMART Goals, download the free SMART Goals PowerPoint Worksheet.





 Learn more about Joe Newsum, the author of all this free content and a McKinsey Alum. I provide a suite of coaching and training services to realize the potential in you, your team, and your business. Learn more about me and my coaching philosophy.
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