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3 Steps to Make Your Objectives SMART

Published 12th October 2016 by Thomas Bale
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Making sure objectives are SMART is a key skill for any manager. But what does it acually mean?

SMART (or... specific, measurable, agreed, attainable and achievable, realistic and resourced, time-bound) objectives will help you prioritise work, monitor progress and celebrate people’s achievements.  Keeping things SMART helps people focus on what’s important and what needs to be done. It makes achieving objectives real and put the possibility within everyone’s grasp. And let’s face it – we all love that feeling of achievement. Making sure that everyone's objectives align with the organisation's business plan is the key. Follow the following steps for setting SMART objectives:

Step 1. Identify your priorities

Look at the vision you’ve set for your organisation and consider which of these key areas are priorities:

  • Finance – increased sales, cuts in spending, better profit margins
  • Product or service – improving existing products or services to match your customers’ requirements, developing new products or services
  • Quality – introducing new quality processes or achieving accreditation to a quality standard
  • Customers – attracting new customers or improving customer satisfaction
  • Personnel and development – recruiting new specialists or improving the skills of existing employees
  • Operations – introducing new information technology or upgrading premises

You may find you have a long list, so prioritise. Which 1 objective is the most important? 

Step 2. Make sure your objectives are SMART

The next step is to take your priorities and make a SMART objective from each. Make each priority into a concise statement and run it through the SMART test.

For each objective ask yourself whether it is: 

  • Specific. Will everyone be able to understand it? A vague objective leads to poor results
  • Measurable. Clear targets allow you to measure whether you are making the progress you expect or have anticipated
  • Agreed, attainable and achievable. Objectives must be agreed so your people can own them. They should be attainable and achievable by the person you have asked to meet the objective
  • Realistic and resourced. Given your resources and the current climate, is your objective realistic? Do you have the resources (the time, money and equipment) to make it happen? 
  • Timebound. You must set a clear timeframe for objectives so the people working on the objective are clear when it has to be achieved

An objective will only be useful if it passes the SMART test. If it doesn’t pass, change it until it does.

Examples of SMART objectives would include ‘to achieve a 15% net profit by 31 March’, ‘to generate 20% revenue from online sales before 31 December’ or ‘to recruit three new people to the marketing team by the beginning of January’.

Step 3. Make sure your objectives are a good fit and are assigned to the right people

After you’ve produced your objectives, give them the common-sense check and make sure they fit together to form a unified strategy.

Once you’ve decided on your SMART objectives, put them in a format that makes it easy to review, update and use to brief. 

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