The power of SMART goals

Do you find yourself or your employees setting vague goals without clear objectives that miss the mark?

Every goal, whether small or complex, can benefit the clear structure of SMART goals.

To implement SMART, goal setters break down their desired objective through the following five categories:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Relevant
  • T – Timely

S – Specific

When reviewing your goal, first determine what exactly you want to achieve. Then ask the following in detail:

  • Where?
  • How?
  • When?
  • Who?
  • What?

Remember to be specific when formulating questions and answering them. What are the limitations? How much will it cost? Where will we get funding? When is completion expected? Who will be working on the project? The more specific your questions and answers to those questions, the more structure and visibility your goal will achieve.

M – Measurable

Ask yourself if the goal measurable. To do this, you need to break down your goal into measureable aspects. Avoid generalization when breaking down the aspects. As an example you can set a goal to provide better customer service (generalization) or you can set a goal to increase the overall satisfaction rating on your annual customer satisfaction survey from neutral to satisfied (specific).

A – Attainable

Is it attainable? This is where you spend time in serious reflection of whether the goal is really worth the time, effort and cost to take it on when compared to other priorities and objectives. It is okay to have very high goals as long as they are attainable. If you can only accomplish this goal if you stop working on other projects with upcoming deadlines, it is most likely not attainable.

R – Relevant

Why do you want to reach this goal? Is it relevant to what you are really trying to accomplish? Will this goal achieve your objective?

In this section it is time to compare your goal with your objective. If your objective is to improve employee morale since it is a larger organization goal, is this relevant goal if your department already has high morale?

T – Timely

When you get to this section it is time to map out a plan of everything in your goal that needs to be accomplished. Include milestone deadlines and a final deadline to keep the goal moving along on schedule. Remember, when setting deadlines, it is important to be realistic and not too rigid. You and your team will remain motivated and have better attitudes if deadlines are reasonable.

Finally, as you set SMART goals, remember to keep things positive. Writing your goals in a positive light will dictate attitudes associated with the goal while it is being accomplished and long after completion.


Published by Lisa Raynor-Keck

Communications Manager for Employment Services & Operations at University of Houston-Downtown.

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