SMART Goals: The Guide to Optimal Goal Setting
SMART Goals: The Guide to Optimal Goal Setting
24 ene 2023
SMART goals - how do you classify your existing and upcoming goals? Most studies show the positive impact of goal setting on human performance. SMART Goal format helps individuals, teams, and businesses formulate specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant goals. But how do you definite the SMART status of your goals?
This guide will help you understand what SMART Goals are. It contains multiple examples for individuals, teams, and businesses. We also provide an overview of the major blockers that stand in the way of achieving your objectives. Finally, you can leverage a SMART goal template that we have created for you.
What are SMART Goals
People tend to confuse goals with desires. As a result, individuals and teams set very vague or unrealistic goals that are hard to measure and do not align with general objectives. SMART goals tackle this problem by providing a clear structure for goal setting.
SMART goals acronym unpacked
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. In the next section, we also talk about the SMARTER goals acronym which can be helpful for teams with long-term goals.
The majority of the studies on goals found a correlation between performance improvement and the clarity of the goal. Take a look at the following examples of unspecified vs. specified goals:
Specified goals contain tangible results to achieve. They often liken definite instructions or action plans. You can take any unspecified goal and turn it into SMART, by asking the following questions:
Who is involved?
What do we need to attain?
How can we attain it?
What are the time frames?
For example, your company wants to increase design ROI. Answering the second and third questions in the above list can help you determine a more specified goal. For example, conduct user research during the planning, prototyping, and implementation stages.
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Goals need to have measurable results. It makes it easier to plan, implement and estimate progress.
There are two ways you can make your goal measurable:
Quantitative describes the change in numbers
Qualitative describes the change in quality
An example of a smart goal that has a quantitative measure would be “increase MQLs by 10%” or “generate 150 leads per month.”
An example of a qualitative measure smart goal would be “equip the sales team with a playbook containing answers to all the objections of decision-makers to help them improve the communication with prospects.”
To define measurability when writing a smart goal use these questions:
What are the progress KPIs?
What are the indicators of goal/subgoal achievement?
Progress KPIs are especially important for long-term goals that consist of multiple steps and involve many people.
About one-third of people do not attain their New Year’s Resolutions because of unrealistic goals.
Let’s take a look at the following SMART Goal example. A company wants to reduce the duration of its sales cycle to three months. It’s pretty specific and measurable. However, this company manufactures cargo ships.
Such a goal is impossible to achieve with their business model and product. Sales cycles of such machinery can take one year and more.
You should analyze the probability of goal attainment and take into account many factors including:
Resources (budget, people involved, materials, etc.)
Factors beyond your control (e.g., economic situation, competition, demand, etc.).
Tip: don’t be discouraged to set ambitious and challenging goals. In fact, people feel more motivated if the goal is ambitious. SMART is created to dream bigger. However, you still need to stay within the limits of reality.
Not all goals that individuals or organizations set are relevant to them. Sometimes, teams can set goals that do not align with the business’s overall objectives and strategy. Such goals divert attention and take away focus from activities that could be more useful for the firm.
The following questions will help you understand if the goal is relevant:
What is the purpose of this goal?
What are we trying to achieve with it?
Time-bound component of SMART goals will help you to define the time period necessary to accomplish your goals. Furthermore, you need to set deadlines since they help people to distribute their efforts more evenly in time and to plan better. They provide a sense of urgency and motivation to work.
If you have subgoals, it is necessary to set the deadlines for them too. You also need to align the amount of work necessary to accomplish the goal with the general overload of your team. For example, if you are currently working on other time-consuming projects it might be hard to allocate the necessary time for one more.
Ask the following questions:
How long will it take us to achieve this goal
What are the realistic deadlines for sub-goals?
Is our team ready to start the goal accomplishment?
In business environments, goals are usually long-term and engage many people. That’s why they faced certain difficulties in the implementation. To make the most of SMART goals, experts offered to add two more metrics: evaluation and revision.
These metrics are necessary to control the progress of the goal and to adjust it in time as new information comes in or a situation changes.
Evaluation of the goal progress is important for attainment control. It has been proven that individuals achieve goals better if they have a person or several people they regularly report to and get support from. Teams also work better when they know about the goal progress checkpoints.
Ask the following questions:
How and when do we assess the goal’s progress?
Who will be assessing it?
Finally, when accomplishing SMART Goals it might become clear that allocated time, resources, or people is not enough or too much for the goal. The overall situation might change and it becomes clear that your goal needs to be revisited and reevaluated.
For example, a developer at a sprint promised to complete the new product feature in 3 weeks. After two weeks it becomes clear that it will take much longer. The team needs to meet again and discuss the details.
Ask these questions:
What are the key indicators we need to revise and adjust our goal?
What is the procedure for goal evaluation (how will we do it, who will be involved)?
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SMART Goals benefits
SMART Goals can benefit both individuals and organizations:
The SMART goal format enables you to analyze the task profoundly
When creating SMART or SMARTER, your team asks essential questions, such as the purpose of the goal and how to achieve it, the availability of resources and the probability to attain. It can help teams to gain valuable insights on how to achieve the goal and come up with a better resource-quality ratio.
Goal clarity removes ambiguity and enables you to stay motivated and focused.
Ultimately, writing SMART goals helps you rephrase your desire into an actionable plan. It already contains the answers to the key questions like: how, who, when, why, and how long?
Setting goals changes how people think and behave
When teams and individuals have goals, their brains perceive the necessary activities in a more structured way. This helps to spend available time more efficiently and think of goal accomplishment as a step-by-step process.
SMART goals enable you to measure your progress
Goal visualization boosts confidence in its achievement
The accomplishment of goals sets you up for success in the future
How to write a SMART Goal
Writing SMART goals helps you to achieve them better. Two separate studies by Gail Matthews and Mark Murphy have found a correlation between putting down your goals and achieving them. In fact, they’ve seen a 20-40% success growth.
In this section, we discuss how to create SMART Goals for individuals and teams.
5 tips for writing SMART Goals that will boost team productivity
1. Prepare structure.
You can choose SMART or SMARTER goals depending on your preferences. Create a table in a text editor or spreadsheet and write down questions for each SMART goal component (specific, measurable, etc.).
Add to this structure the items that you believe will benefit your goal:
Challenges and blockers
Action plan with subgoals and deadlines.
This structure will be the working document that will help you and your team to stay on track with attaining your SMART goal.
2. Engage your team for working on your business goal.
Getting your team working on the goal can benefit you in many ways:
Crowd wisdom: your goal can benefit from the perspective of other people.
When people take part in goal forming they feel responsible for its success and thus are more motivated to accomplish it.
Creating SMART Goals will help your team understand better their purpose and the underlying factors, e.g., why the team allocated this amount of time.
3. Allocate the time for working on your goal
It’s important to work on your goal uninterrupted for better focus. Set up the meeting with your team. Make sure that everyone involved is there.
It will be beneficial if you send out the information about SMART Goals principles and the structure you’ve prepared to the teammates. It will enable your team to start thinking about the goal before the meeting. And some people might as well show up with valuable insight.
4. Apply the step-by-step approach when writing your SMART goal
We suggest writing down your initial unspecified goal. For example, achieve design consistency in the product. Next, fill out the structure, answering the questions for each SMART goal component.
Don’t be afraid to revisit the previous items. Sometimes as you move from one component to the next, you might realize that what you’ve written before doesn’t work. For example, you understand that achieving the goal is not realistic or doesn’t align with the strategy of your business. Don’t scrap the whole work, try to reword your goal to meet the new criteria.
For example, your team understands that hiring 10 candidates in three months is unrealistic for your company. Try to go with fewer roles or with a longer term. At this stage, you can also prioritize the roles for your company.
After completing your work write your final goal in one to three sentences. An example of a SMART goal final option will be:
In three months, hire 3 Middle developers, find 10 perspective candidates for Junior devs, and find 4 perspective candidates for a Mid Design role. Begin reviewing the CVs of QAs in 4 months.
5. Summarize the meeting and specify the next steps
Having your goal written isn’t enough. We suggest assigning team members for each subgoal, setting deadlines, and specifying KPIs. Add these artifacts to your SMART Goal progress plan.
Next, create a schedule for progress evaluation. For example, a team lead can assign weekly video meetings on goal progress.
Finally, create and send the summary of the current meeting, and the tasks for involved team members. Add the SMART Goal document to your email.
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Leverage SMART Goal Template
SMART Goal Templates have become extremely popular. Individuals and organizations use them to turn a vague goal into a SMART one. Usually, their structure is pretty simple, a table where you can specify each aspect of the SMART acronym.
We prepared two SMART Goal templates for businesses and individuals. Apart from SMART, they include evaluation and review and basic questions for each part of the goal. Additionally, in these documents, you can find other items to help you achieve your SMART goals like challenges, resources, and a plan template.
Download a Personal SMART Goal template
Learn from SMART Goals Examples
This section will help you understand how to write your smart goals better by providing a wide range of individual and business SMART goals examples.
Examples of SMART goals for work
Check out the SMART goals examples for your professional development:
SMART professional goals for improving KPIs
Take a 2-month course on cold calling to learn 5 new techniques on talking with prospects
Research blogs and websites of 10 competitors from Tuesday to Thursday and find potential content ideas for us.
Attain 4 industry conferences in the next year, introduce myself to 10 C-level managers at each, ask them about their business pain points, offer our solution if I feel the person is ready, and exchange contact information.
Career development and change of work
Take 2 courses in May to apply for a position that my company is opening in June.
Take a Product Management course, get a certificate, and ask for a promotion. Start researching new job opportunities and send my CVs to 50 companies, if I don’t get promoted.
30-minute practice of Figma prototyping every Friday for 3 months to change my career.
SMART business goals examples
Initially, SMART Goals were developed as a tool for managing organizations. To this day, many firms use this format to achieve their objectives and follow strategies.
SMART Goals for business management and growth
Increase revenue by 10% in 12 months through winning clients from a new industry (education). To achieve it, conduct sales research and outreach, create 20 marketing materials, and establish new connections in this industry by attending the upcoming conference.
Decrease employee turnover by 20%: survey employees who leave and who stay about working conditions for three months, analyze their answers, and come up with an improvement action plan.
Grow customer lifetime value by 30% through conducting user research and defining three things: What is the current user experience of our service? What features are redundant/ lacking? How can we improve customer experience?
Smart goals for managers
Conduct 3 official meetings and 1 get-together after work for design and development departments to improve their communication and achieve better cross-team collaboration.
Research 5 tools for automating team workload in 2 weeks. Sift out the selection to 2 tools. Test each for 2 weeks and then pick the best one.
Smart marketing goals
Increase CTR by adding CTAs on all our blog posts and website pages that don’t have them during the next 2 weeks.
Improve optimization by rewriting the headlines and meta descriptions in 120 blog posts.
Smart sales goals
Create 10 new templates for cold emails for B-level decision makers and 10 templates for C-level by the end of August.
Change lead qualification methodology from BANT to NEAT within a month. Lead all discovery calls with NEAT for 3 months and estimate the impact.
SMART Goals for meetings
Meetings are a powerful instrument for teamwork. However, research shows that 71% of them are considered unproductive. Here are some reasons for such unproductivity:
Meetings often involve people who have nothing to contribute but need to be there to keep up with the team's progress
Decisions made at meetings are not implemented
People discuss the same thing over and over at multiple meetings
Here are several SMART goals examples for meeting productivity:
“Decrease the number of meetings by 10% by the end of the month”
“Stop inviting people who do not contribute to the meetings and send them meeting minutes instead”
“Limit the number of minutes every person talks at the meetings to 10”
“Create and follow the meeting agenda”
“Write down the decisions of each meeting and send them to everyone involved”
“Acquire a tool that creates meeting transcriptions and can transform them into action items, summaries, and follow-ups to automate and decrease the time of post-meeting activities.”
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Blockers to SMART goal achievement, how to avoid and overcome them
SMART goals are a powerful instrument in managing your life, your career, your team or your business. However, you might face certain blockers to achieving them. Let’s discuss what stands in your way to success.
Individual SMART goal blockers
“I’m not good enough”
Surround yourself with people who support you. Don’t share your goals with those who have repeatedly articulated that you “lack what it takes to do something.”
“I fear I would fail”
Failure is an essential and inalienable part of human activity. Try to rewrite this phrase as follows: “I can fail. It is ok. What’s most important is that I will learn a lesson from it. And next time I try I will take into account this experience”
“I can’t manage my time properly”
Set a plan in a calendar with notifications on your smartphone. Commit to doing the task at the time you’ve allocated. If something comes up, reschedule the completion of the task for later.
“I must make it perfectly or not do it at all”
It might be helpful for perfectionists to set a grade scale for performance assessment. And then set a score where you evaluate your work as good enough but not perfect. You want to do it at 100. And stop at 75, it is a good score. And for some people, it might be perfect.
“I have to do it but I can’t make myself do it”
Divide your goal into smaller parts. Allocated a finite amount of time. For example, “I will be working on this task for 20 minutes each day.” A small portion of work will convince your brain that it is doable and not overwhelming.
Business SMART goal blockers
No alignment with company goals and strategy
A study shows that only one-third of companies apply a consistent approach to setting goals that will be then used to evaluate progress and results. Furthermore, only 55% of middle managers can clearly articulate the key company priorities.
We suggest using SMART goals company-wide and clearly communicating your business priorities and objectives at all the levels of organization.
No team alignment around the goal
A team needs the goal description and plan written down in one place for further reference, evaluation, and revision. You need a single source of truth, a document that will cover all the aspects of your goal and its implementation stages.
Accountability of each person involved in goal attainment is essential. It will make people more productive and responsible. The team leader should report to the whole group. It will instill a feeling of fairness in your teammates and will help you to perform better as a leader.
People who follow a set scheduled action in commitment to the goal are 76% more likely to succeed in their goals. Set clear deadlines for your goals.
The team finds it hard to follow the goal
Break down the goal into smaller parts
The team is afraid to adjust the goal once the situation has changed. It’s unproductive. You can work with each team member separately and explain the pitfalls of such an approach. Try to make your team commit to changing the goal if necessary.
We discuss too much but we don’t do enough
When people discuss a task, a goal, or an issue, everything seems very clear. However, after the conversation is over, they might forget what has been agreed upon. Commit to writing meeting minutes. You can later pick out the decisions that have been made during the meeting and assign them to your team.
Creating minutes, follow-ups, and assignments for video calls is easier with an AI-powered tool.
Check out how you can complete this tedious task with Noty.ai in just a few minutes:
Step 1. Create a Noty.ai account and integrate it with Zoom or Google Meet.
Step 2. Conduct your call. Noty.ai will automatically transcribe it.
Step 3. Review the transcription and highlight the parts you want to get into the meeting minutes. You can also do it during the meeting.
Alternatively, use the tool’s AI to create a summary for you.
Step 4. Leverage the prewritten follow-ups. Just add the main points you highlighted or the whole conversation.
Step 5. Use the AI-generated action items, tasks, decisions, and summary for better team management and SMART goals attainment.
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SMART goals can help people and organizations attain their objectives and improve performance. People might face blockers in their attempts to achieve these goals. However, the right activities and tools can help overcome these issues.