Goal Setting with SMART Goals

Setting goals is extremely important to progress all the moving parts in an organization. In order for any team member to do something well, they must know the different metrics being used to gauge their performance, have the knowledge and skills to carry out the task, and understand the importance of carrying out this task accurately.

Goals help members align their own efforts with the organizational goals; team members are able to see how they fit into the big picture. When planning projects goals, goals should not only be specific, but also measurable so they can be both achievable and relevant.

(Source of photo: http://makeitwithmich.blogspot.com/2011/12/be-smart.html)

To attain consistent success, goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.


A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. Increasing goal specificity reduces ambiguity about what is expected and emphasizes on what you want to happen. To clearly set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:

Who: Who are all the people responsible for making sure the task gets done?
Be sure to assign these tasks to the parties responsible, and follow up if you don’t see any progress being made toward completing the goal.

What: What do I want to accomplish?
Use action words such as direct, organize, coordinate, lead, develop, plan, build, etc. to clearly define the task at hand.

Where: Identify a location.
Do you have to go somewhere/be somewhere to complete this task?

When: Establish a time frame.
Set feasible deadlines but make sure you stay on top of them so you the project doesn’t fall behind.

Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
If the task is to contact someone at a company, are there departments you should be focusing on specifically?

Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing goal.
Why is this important to do at this time? Is this a task that will help drive progress on your current organizational goals? See if this task is worthy of having time invested right now.


What criteria will be used to measure a goal’s progress? If your goals are not measurable, you never know whether you are making progress toward their successful completion. You and your employees will also be more motivated to complete goals if there are milestones to indicate progress.

How will you see if you when you reach your goal? Again, be specific! “I want to read 100 pages of my book before tomorrow” shows the specific target to be measured. “I want to read a lot” is not as measurable.


Goals must be realistic and attainable by those assigned to the task. The best goals require you or your team members to stretch a bit to achieve them, but they aren’t too extreme. For instance, if you aim to lose 20lbs in one week, we all know that isn’t achievable, but setting a goal to lose 1lb a week is more feasible.

Once achieved, the feeling of success will help keep people motivated as you try to lose another pound. Goals that are set too high or too low become meaningless and team members will start to ignore them.


Goals must be an important tool in the grand scheme of reaching your company’s vision and mission. What are the primary objectives of the organization right now? For many companies, any action that does not directly lead to the conversion of a sale is something that is not worth focusing on. The goals that are being assigned need to be a worthy investment of the little time you have to move in the right direction.


Goals must have start points, ending points, and overall fixed duration. Commitment to deadlines helps employees to focus their efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date. With no time frame tied to the goal, there would be no sense of urgency, an incredible motivating factor.

Make sure you do not set the deadline too far in the future since it can be easily put off. However, a goal that is set too close may be unrealistic or discouraging. If you want to lose 10lbs, when would you want to lose it by? Just saying “someday” won’t work, but if you anchor it within a time frame, “by July 15th”, then you have set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal.

SMART goals make for smarter organizations and individuals. As you can see, many of the aspects of this particular method of goal setting put a lot of emphasis on specifying as much as possible, making sure the goal is challenging the one assigned, making sure it is not only realistic and feasible to accomplish, but also a task that will directly affect the direction of the organization’s vision and objectives.

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