By Jun M. Roy

(Jun Roy is one of  ExeQserve’s Senior Training Consultants. He is also the head of training for one of the Philippine’s largest insurance company. He blogs at HR Toolbox. Know more about him by clicking the link above.)

Most  likely, you have heard about S.MA.R.T. Goals hundreds, if not thousands of times already. But what about SMARTER goals?

There’s no argument that goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. But come to think of it. Does a SMART goal necessarily mean that it is a challenging one?

I don’t think so.

Actually, this is one of my late realizations after years of teaching people how to set goals. Being SMART is not enough.

To me, the real power of a goal lies in its ability to challenge people to perform at their best.  A powerful goal is one that both incites and excites people to stretch their potential to its limit. Thus, aside from being SMART, a goal needs to be Energizing and Rewarding. That’s how SMART goals become SMARTER.

Making Your Goals S.M.A.R.T.
Logically speaking, goals which are not SMART – i.e. vague and confusing – cannot be energizing and rewarding. Hence, I’ll try to share my thoughts first on the simplest way to make your goals SMART. A lot has been said about writing SMART goals. But many of the articles on the topic are often descriptive instead of being instructive. Let me share with you a simple yet helpful framework in writing SMART goals. It’s called OUTCOME->OBJECT->CRITERIA.

Outcome. A goal has to be dynamic and action-oriented. Yet, being action-oriented can also lead to what is called an “activity trap,” wherein tasks are being confused with goals. Thus, a goal has to speak about the end results required by the stakeholders of the said goal. For example, the words “coordinate” and “assists” refers to the task involved in achieving a given goal. It’s a lot different, and better, when you introduce your goal with power words like “increase,”reduce,” “achieve,”etc.

Object. This simply refers to the target element of the action. For example, “To reduce (Outcome) cycle time in the processing of …(Object)”

Criteria. This refers to the standards upon which success or failure shall be measured. For example, “To achieve (Outcome) total sales target in X product (Object) of Php 10M by end of 2010 (Criteria).

Below is a link to a tabular illustration of the application of the framework ->
Outcome-Object-Criteria Framework

To make goals more Energizing and Rewarding – i.e. SMARTER – it must be improvement-oriented. The following are some basic guidelines to test if a goal is SMARTER.

1. SMARTER goals lead to results that are either Better Than (or Parity with):

* Before (based on past performance)
* Expected (based on customer requirements)
* Others (based on benchmarks, best practices or competition)

2. SMARTER goals clearly address any of the following needs (based on the works of Fred Nickols, 2000)

* ACHIEVE – having what you don’t have (e.g. sales target, improvement-oriented targets, etc.)
* PRESERVE what you currently have (e.g. strengths like market leadership, core competencies, etc)
* AVOID – what you don’t have that you don’t want (audit and compliance issues, customer complaints, etc)
* ELIMINATE – what you have now that you don’t want (e.g. errors, backlogs, etc)

Why Make Your Goals SMARTER?

A writer once said that “in the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”  I guess that sums up the situation that happens in many organizations. There is appalling lack of intellectual rigor in the process of setting goals. Many people take it for granted whether the goal is SMART and much more SMARTER.

What have we to gain if we make our goals SMARTER. I say, a lot. Managers are supposed to be coaches. By setting SMARTER goals, we build a solid foundation for effective coaching. After all, coaching is about helping people to achieve mutually satisfying goals for themselves and for the organization. And that can’t happen if the goal is basically task-oriented and don’t challenge someone to achieve more and be more.

Managers are also performance managers. If performance involves achieving desired results, then, it is but logical that managers have to focus on ensuring that the desired results are clearly set, understood, and embraced by their staff.

For the individual contributors, by having SMARTER goals, we project an image of being a goal-driven person. We enable ourselves to focus on compiling a solid track record of measurable success that matter to the organization.

Having SMARTER goals can be one of your smartest moves for your self, for your staff, and for your unit.