SMART methodology: how to set goals and reach them?

Whether in professional or personal life, having goals allows you to move forward. They motivate us and push us to surpass ourselves. When achieved, they provoke a feeling of accomplishment and pride that energizes us for the challenges that will follow.

However, even before fulfilling an objective, it is necessary to be able to identify it. What goal to set? Why this one and not another? These are important questions to ask yourself because a poorly defined or inconsistent goal is even worse than having no goals at all! It will lead you in the wrong direction and also waste time, energy and money.

Poorly defined or inconsistent goals are even worse than having no goals at all!

The SMART methodology was precisely created to help us define the goal that best suits our situation. Invented by George T. Doran, it first appeared in the Management Review, in 1981, in an article called: “There is a S.M.A.R.T way to write management’s goals and objectives”. Want to know more?

The SMART method, an effective acronym for setting relevant goals

For George T. Doran, a goal must be SMART. SMART stands for “specific”, “measurable”, “achievable”, “relevant” and “time-bound”. It is necessary to follow these 5 criteria to greenlight an objective and succeed in a project:

  • S for specific: this means that the objective must be clearly defined, precise and easy to explain. Complexity muddies the waters, it is well known! For example: "Making the brand more visible on social media" is too vague a goal, which will therefore not lead to action. On the other hand, “get 50 new followers per week” or “publish 1 article per week in the first quarter to create a larger community” are much more appealing objectives.
  • M for measurable: it is mandatory to choose a goal that can be measured by a number, which will allow you to know whether or not you have reached your goal. The key question to ask yourself is, "How much?”. It doesn't have to be a quantity (“increase our turnover by 15%”). It can also be a frequency (“make 3 posts per week on LinkedIn”; “do a one-to-one meeting every week”) or a quality (“reduce delivery problems by 50%”).
  • A for ambitious, but also for achievable or appropriate: a goal must above all be the source of inspiration and motivation that will lead you to succeed. Great goals give teams the energy to surpass themselves. Tread lightly: it must be ambitious but not unrealistic. Use your common sense and make sure it is more or less reachable or it will sound too theoric and far fetched.
  • R for realistic and relevant: realism and ambition are the perfect combo! Does my goal really make sense given my skill set, my company, the market or the competition?  Is it realistic to aim for 500 sales per week when I have just started my business? Aim right, because an unrealistic goal can make teams lose their motivation.
  • T for time-bound: it is essential to define a timing and a deadline to achieve objectives and anchor the end of a project on a timeline. Otherwise, procrastination may take over! When timing is clearly defined, we organize ourselves better. What sounds better "This year, we will engage our community more" or "By end of December, we are aiming to raise interactions on our publications by 40%"?

What are the benefits of the SMART methodology for managers and employees?

No need to stick to the methodology too strictly to experience the benefits of the SMART method. As a manager, even if you modify it to make it your own, it gives a framework to your employees and it helps them to see your vision and take action.

A SMART objective becomes much more concrete, easy to understand and therefore more inspiring

The method developed by George T. Doran indeed encourages employees to act, since a quantified objective becomes much more concrete, easy to understand and therefore more inspiring. This makes effort more easily measurable, progress more visible and enthusiasm greater, with teams seeing the impact of their work more easily.

It is clear that the method also improves the quality of team actions: when the actions to be carried out are clearer, thinking becomes more strategic; the efforts, time and energy put into the project become more productive. On the contrary, when objectives are poorly defined, it leaves too much to interpretation and it becomes tougher to build an action plan to reach it. A specific objective helps employees see the actions they will need to implement to reach it. For example, if your company's goal is to make 50% of sales to students, it makes sense to have a targeted marketing campaign at universities and schools. But if your goal had been to "target younger people", it would have been more difficult to put the right action plan in place.

The method also clarifies ownership and responsibilities. Each member of a project finds their place, and as such, build legitimacy. With ownership comes more responsibility, as you know what is expected of you. This posture naturally saves time and money for the company, improving its performance by leveraging the team's resources wisely.

At Popwork we have long adopted the SMART methodology internally and this is also reflected in the way we build our management solution. The Popwork solution has been validated and adopted by many companies, helping them prepare meaningful and effective one-to-one between managers and team members. On Popwork, you can also define and follow up the objectives: it’s a great and easy way to put the SMART methodology into practice.