SMART Goals are a business administration concept developed to teach managers the best way to communicate their overall objectives. SMART Goals also layout a pathway that individuals may follow to guide their own action plan and to increase their chances of success.  The issue is a tangled one because today's managers adopt SMART Goals across the board. Many managers now think that all goals must be SMART Goals, but that makes a muddle of the concept. The truth is that, under certain circumstances, SMART Goals cease their usefulness.

What are SMART Goals?

The term "SMART Goals" is an acronym for goals that meet certain intrinsic conditions. SMART Goals share the following five characteristics:

  • Specific 
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

Let's describe the SMART Goals concept in practical terms. The internal specifications are exemplified by the following example. Suppose that a firm's communications manager generally wants more consumers to visit and stay on the firm's website. Toward that goal, the manager requires the department's employee to increase the company's website traffic. He specifically requires the employee to make the website more attractive to visitors by increasing the use of video content that provides visitors educational material related to the business.

To qualify as a SMART Goal, the manager also must specify that the employee increases web traffic by 500 site visitors before the end of the next six-month period. The website's metrics will measure the attainment of the goal. The goal is attainable and realistic (less than 100 new visitors per month) and is time-bound on a short-term basis.

The key point is that SMART Goals are more useful for short-term goals.

What is the problem with SMART Goals?

With regard to managing employees and setting their goals, it is important to understand two things. The first thing is to recognize that different types of business goals exist. The second thing is that you must realize that not all goals fit neatly into the SMART structure. For instance, there are significant differences between Strategic vs. Tactical goals that determine whether they are good candidates for the SMART structure.

Strategic goals are long-term by nature and are often very broad in scope. In addition, strategic goals paint the picture generally of what you want to do and how you want to attain your goal.  One example of a strategic goal is to mobilize your firm to become a market leader by positioning your brand in consumers' minds as having the highest quality products.

Strategic goals are not always best stated as SMART goals. Because strategic goals are intended to cover the long term, it is not always possible to make them time-bound.  Because they are very broad, they will not meet the definition of specific goals.  And strategic goals may be so ambitious that they will not meet the definition of realistic.

Your tactical goals, on the other hand, include all the practical steps that your firm needs to take in order to accomplish your strategic goal. Tactical goals are often SMART goals.

What is the alternative to SMART Goals?

If you are looking for an alternative to the SMART Goals paradigm, then you will want to consider using the OKR framework.  Another acronym, the term OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. There are both business advantages and cultural advantages of OKR.

The business benefits of OKR include better employee focus, expanded transparency, and closer alignment of work assignments to business objectives.  OKR provides these business benefits because the concept requires your firm to organize your employees and the work you assign to them around common firm objectives.

When you employ the OKR management concept, you define the objective or the goal that you want to achieve. Then, you define up to five Key Results which are the measurable steps employees will take toward achieving the objective. You may also decide to identify initiatives that drive the employees toward their Key Results.

Moreover, you must design firm rules that help your employees set their own priorities, focus their energies, and measure their progress toward their goal. The Key Results you define will tell your employees when they will know they have achieved their objective.

The OKR concept gives employees the latitude to perform their jobs with flexibility both in terms of how they work toward the objective and how long it will take them to get there.

It is not possible to overstate the cultural advantages of OKR.  Not only does OKR move your workforce from an output centric philosophy to an outcome centric philosophy.  What's more, the improved focus, better alignment, and expanded transparency work in tandem to heighten the firm's levels of employee engagement.

In short, OKR is the best method to accomplish a business's strategic goals. Subsequently, you can incorporate the appropriate tactical steps to carry out the strategic goals and those tactical steps should meet the requirements of SMART Goals.

All Things Considered.

SMART Goals are the most useful when you want to communicate precise goals to your employees that they can realistically accomplish over a known period of time.

OKR is often more useful than SMART Goals when your firm needs to communicate broader, more ambitious goals that will be completed in an uncertain time frame.

In the final analysis, the decision regarding the appropriate management concept that you should follow is best-managed individually, on a case-by-case basis. After all, only you know which management concept is right for your particular situation.

2020 Isn't Over Yet Webinar

Related Posts

Marketing Strategy

Marketing for Government Agencies

Creating a unique marketing campaign while remaining tasteful may seem like a daunting task as a government agency. Unlike companies in the private sector with more leeway to...

Marketing Strategy

What's a Good Form Fill/Email to Lead Ratio?

If you want to gauge your email campaigns and contact forms’ success, one way to measure their performance is to look at your form fill and email to lead ratios. In an email...