4 minutes

Introduction – What is a SMART Goal?

The phrase SMART goals often pops up from time to time in the world of project management. So you would find that there are goals and there are “SMART goals” and the latter is what you would find most commonly used in organizations.

However, SMART goals are not just specific to the work environment; individuals seeking to add value to their personal lives or seeking to improve on their roles in the workplace can only achieve these by setting smart goals. This is otherwise known as Personal Development Goal.

Smart Goal Definition

Although having several variations, SMART is an acronym for:

Specific / Significant


Attainable / Achievable

Relevant / Realistic

Time Bound / Time-based

As you can see from the breakdown above, for any goal to be considered “smart” it should be specific – spelled out clearly, answering the questions ‘what’, ‘when’ why, ‘who’, ‘where’ and ‘which’ . As a project manager, your project team can only add value to your team when they know what exactly that goal is and just how significant it is to the success of the project.

The goals should be measurable; how would you track progress? It’s all about metrics; knowing what number represents failure and what represents success.

Building a staircase that can get you straight up to the sun is not an achievable goal, the same way asking the design team to come up with a prototype of a particular piece of technology, complete with all the technical specifications and parameters in under 30 minutes, is not either. When you set goals, the project team should be able to envision it and come up with a plan for achieving it.

Equally, project management goals should be relevant to the project and should have a time frame for accomplishing them. If the goals are not constrained by time, then it does not attract any sense of urgency and therefore it is deemed inconsequential. For help tracking time spent on the project, consider using time tracking software.

This article from Sid Savara talks about how setting smart goals saw 3% of Havard MBAs makes 10 times more than the rest of their counterparts. Although this claim is not substantiated, it does make for a very interesting read.

Here’s an Example of a SMART Goal

Let’s take a look at a certain event management company called XYZ. The office of XYZ is located on a very popular business district where over 200 organizations have set up shop. They currently cater to only weddings and birthday parties and their clients are happy at the moment. However, XYZ is barely making profits despite the fact that they have over 90% rate in customer satisfaction. If they continue down this lane, in less than 12 months, the company would cease to exist.

In order to prevent that from happening the CEO of XYZ event management company got a new manager who explains that to survive the coming months, they would need to make an additional $15000 every month.

She then proposed that they include corporate events as part of their services; she then gives the 3 full-time employees the task of marketing 5 organizations every month with the aim of acquiring the patronage of at least one with a minimum proposal bid of $5000.

From this example, you would clearly see that the goal is:

Specific – Make an additional $15000 every month.

Measurable – They are working with numbers, the employees know that anything below $5000 per month is not considered successful.

Attainable – The can easily get this done because their office happens to be located in a business district with over 200 organizations in residence.

Relevant – The goal is relevant because it would help to keep the business from sinking.

Time bound – She has given them at least one month to each land a new client.

A Guide to Setting Smart Goals

The first step to turning project objectives to smart goals would be to note down the key outcomes that are pertinent to the successful execution of the project or the organization.

So if we consider an organization’s objective of increasing sales by 30% by the end of the 2017 financial year, here’s how it could look like…

1. Write down your objectives

According to the results of a study conducted by Psychology Professor – Gail Matthews at Dominican University, individuals who wrote down their goals achieved significantly more results than those who did not.

2. Break them down into SMART goals and ensure they are few & manageable.

This is because focusing on too many goals at the same time could have adverse effects on the achievement of our objects. Individuals begin to feel overwhelmed; the willingness to pursue those goals becomes non-existent.

3. Goals should also be reviewed often

The idea behind this is that you can see how far you’ve come and it helps to keep you motivated. As you review your goals, you gain more clarity on what your next steps ought to be.

4. Share your goals with your team members

Every member of the team ought to be in the loop as it helps employees identify their roles within the grand scheme of things.

5. Celebrate your achievements

You and your team have come a long way and celebrating small wins as well as major ones reinforces a positive organizational culture and also helps to build self-esteem amongst the employees. The implications of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as one of the theories of motivation point to the fact that fulfilling an employee’s self-esteem could prove to be quite motivational for the employee. This is also one of the most cost-efficient ways of promoting employee satisfaction within an organization, leading to more productivity and a reduced rate of employee turnover.

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