The benefit of using SMART criteria in planning has been known for a few last decades. They were so widely applied, integrated as a proven technique in managing organizations' goals and objectives, and improved by so many contributors that currently is quite hard to name the only one certain definition of 'SMART'. For different people, this acronym means different things. Even the terms 'goal' and 'objective', in some cases, have either opposite or the same meaning. Nevertheless, the knowledge of the original ideas helps to get the most from the whole approach.
In 1981, the article of George T. Doran "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives" was published. He reasonably pointed out that despite all the available literature and seminars, "most managers still don't know what objectives are and how they can be written", that "the majority of U.S. corporations don't really have an effective objective setting/planning process", and that "the process of writing objectives is a major source of anxiety that many individuals would like to live without".
It was a frustrating reality caused by the lack of proper education across "corporate officers, managers, and supervisors", on all levels. George T. Doran has also mentioned, "objective setting must become a way of life" and suggested an effective way to tackle this problem. When it comes to define goals or write objectives, one has "to think of the acronym SMART" and be clear about a distinction between terms 'goal' and 'objective'.
" Goals represent unique executive beliefs and philosophies. They are usually of a form that is continuous and long-term". " Objectives , on the other hand, give quantitative support and expression to managements' beliefs", "enable an organization to focus on problems, and give the company a sense of direction", "a statement of results to be achieved".
The acronym itself, in the original form, had the following meaning:
- 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
Taking into consideration the fact, that the proposed solution was targeted to organizations, it will not be a surprise that few "letters" changed their meaning to satisfy the needs of smaller groups or individuals. For instance, for personal use, as there are no others to whom it could be assigned, "A" and "R" change their meaning to Achievable (similar to Realistic) and Relevant (appropriate and related to the context).
There are two important observations to notice:
- the proposed technique doesn't require all objectives to be measurable or quantified. In some situations, it can lead to "lose the benefit of a more abstract objective in order to gain quantification"
- it is not required to have all five criteria set. "However, the closer we get to the SMART criteria as a guideline, the smarter our objectives will be".
One way to make goals and objectives working together is to join them in one Action Plan. The action plan makes it possible to reach long-term goals by using short-run objectives in the context of your real situation.
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