While it’s always a good idea to put together project goals, the approach that you take to do so is important. Simply choosing goals because you think you should or those that are particularly difficult to track and measure don’t do a good job of keeping you on track throughout the project. This is why SMART goals are so effective.
What Are SMART Goals?
SMART is a mnemonic acronym that establishes criteria for ideal goals and objectives in a project. SMART stands for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related. This means that a goal must meet these criteria to be considered a SMART goal.
SMART goals help project managers, business managers and any other types of team leaders define clear objectives that should be accomplished by their teams. Best of all, SMART goals can be used to measure the effectiveness of virtually any project or task.
Within that simple set of criteria is a guide to help teams be more productive, while always keeping goals in mind. Without goals, there is no focus, and without focus the chance of successfully completing a project is slim.
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SMART Goals Template
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How to Write SMART Goals
Now that SMART is clearly defined, how do you write SMART goals? Well, it should be obvious now that the process starts with asking a lot of questions. Pose questions to yourself, your team and even stakeholders. The answers to these questions will whittle down your options and sharpen your strategy. From there, goals will become clear and attainable.
1. Make Your Goal Specific
Begin by defining what it is that you’re trying to achieve. Be specific. Ask the five Ws: who, what, why, where and which. For example:
The more you can focus on the specifics, the more achievable the goal.
2. Make Your Goal Measurable
In order for a goal to be SMART, it must be measurable, and to track your progress toward your goal, you have to know how to measure it. That keeps you on track and motivates you to finish on time. So, in order to be successful, you need to regularly monitor and assess your progress.
Also, you have to know how to tell when you’ve reached that goal, so as not to waste time once it’s already been achieved. Basically, you must set up metrics to measure your progress. Project milestones can help break up a timeline if a project extends over some months.
3. Make Your Goal Achievable
There’s no point in having and measuring a goal that’s impossible to achieve. Therefore, another criterion for a SMART goal is discerning if the goal you’ve defined is realistic. You want to reach beyond what you think is possible (because nothing is achieved by playing it safe), but not so far that the project comes crashing down on top of you.
You must know your resources well, and ask if this goal can be accomplished considering the constraints under which you’re working, which include scheduling and costs.
4. Make Your Goal Relevant
The goal is now defined, measurable and achievable, but is it relevant? A SMART goal has to be relevant, and that doesn’t mean just to you but to the organization at large.
That means your goal, even after meeting all the prior criteria, must align with other relevant goals because success requires support and assistance from everyone on the project team. It must work in tandem with other parts of the project and the overall strategy of the organization.
This creates a whole new set of questions such as, is the goal worthwhile? Maybe the time isn’t right. Does it match other needs? Maybe you’re not the right person to lead this initiative, or maybe it’s not aligned with current economics or social trends. If it offers the right answers to these questions, then it’s relevant.
5. Make Your Goal Time-Bound
A SMART goal will always be time-related because goals often cannot be achieved without a deadline. A deadline serves as a great motivator and can provide context for you to recognize the various tasks necessary to reach that goal in the time allotted. Therefore, giving the goal time constraints helps keep you on track.
Naturally, you must answer questions, such as: when must the goal be achieved? Then get more specific; is that in six months, six weeks, six days? Without a time frame, you can’t devise a plan, and the goal will never be realized.
5 SMART Goals Examples
It’s one thing to write about SMART goals and another thing to actually use them. That’s why we’re going to share five SMART goals examples to provide a fuller understanding of the concept.
1. Project Management SMART Goal Example
Scope creep is when more features are added to a project during the execution phase, which can have a negative impact on the project’s schedule and budget.
Specific: Speak with stakeholders and get them to give you all the requirements so that you’re not surprised down the line when they say they’ve forgotten something.
Measurable: Be sure that each of the requirements they request can be measured. That is, each requirement should be tested and then checked off the list.
Achievable: Look over the list of requirements. If some are not realistic then go back to the stakeholder and tell them why it’s not feasible considering the time and costs involved.
Relevant: Again, look over the list of requirements you received from your stakeholders and make sure each is relevant to the product. If it’s not, it’s got to go.
Time-related: Can the requirements requested be completed by the deadline? Will the requirement lead to overspending the budget? Unless the requirement can be delivered on time and within budget it should be removed.
2. Business SMART Goal Example
Businesses are always trying to expand and add to their profits. One way to do this is by acquiring more clients.
Specific: Decide how many new clients to add to your business. One might not impact your bottom line and 100 will likely just lead to frustration. Find the number that’s right for your business.
Measurable: Set up a metric to measure the success of your campaign to acquire new clients. This way you’ll be able to know if you’re in fact delivering on your goal or not.
Achievable: Again, be realistic. How many resources can you allocate to this endeavor without negatively impacting your business? There’s a sweet spot and you want to hit it.
Relevant: You’ll also want to make sure that the clients you’re wooing are a good fit for the business. If you partner with someone who isn’t it will not serve them or you.
Time-related: Have a deadline, whether that’s adding x amount of new clients by the end of the quarter or the year. Then stick to it.
3. Manufacturing SMART Goal Example
A manufacturer wants to reduce breakdowns on their machines.
Specific: Decide if this is a factory-wide effort or if there are specific machines that are always breaking down and need special attention.
Measurable: Have metrics to track machines’ performance to see if the measure used to reduce downtime due to mechanical failure is in fact working.
Achievable: Maybe a factory-wide maintenance is unrealistic and will cut into production or perhaps you have the resources to address all machines on your production line. Determine what can be done without a negative impact on the business.
Relevant: Look at the big picture and decide if a factory shutdown to replace or repair machines is necessary or if there can be a less disruptive approach, maybe over phases.
Time-related: Define a project timeline. The last thing you want is to keep it open-ended.
4. Construction SMART Goal Example
A construction company has razor-thin profit margins because they budget projects with their profit included, but in executing the project they always end up spending more, which cuts into their profits.
Specific: Decide on what the goal is. It could be to find inefficiencies or to complete work faster. But whatever it is, make the goal specific.
Measurable: Find the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you track your projects and identify those areas that are underperforming. Then as you implement solutions, you can measure whether they’re in fact working.
Achievable: Don’t create a goal that you can’t keep. Maybe you want to only gain 10 percent more profitability. Whatever is achievable should be your goal.
Relevant: You might have to revise your goal as you determine what is relevant to your company. If you change the project estimates, for example, it might make you less competitive in the market.
Time-related: Set a realistic timeframe for achieving your goals. You don’t want it to be too long nor should it be too short. Find the deadline that will allow you to make the effort without turning it into an impossible task.
5. Marketing SMART Goal Example
Let’s say I wanted to increase my content output in the marketing department of my business. I would write my SMART goal like this, “Frank and Caroline (the content team) will need to work together to create 3 more eBooks per month, for the next 6 months.”
Specific: This is an important project because eBooks can collect emails, creating warm leads. Frank and Caroline will collaborate using Google Docs. They can use Meeting Room B on Tuesdays and Thursdays before 10 am.
Measurable: It’s easy to measure if 3 eBooks are created each month. They simply have to compile a short report and submit it to the manager with links to each of the 3 new eBooks.
Achievable: This is an aggressive goal, given how much work goes into an eBook, but it’s certainly attainable.
Relevant: I’ll ensure this project stays relevant by keeping the eBook content related to the business. As a safeguard, I’ll make sure that a product expert approves the eBook topic before Frank and Caroline begin writing it.
Time-related: By requiring that all 3 eBooks are done by the end of the month, this goal is time-related. Additionally, my content team knows they have to do this for 6 months, so they know exactly how many eBooks they need to create.
Be Flexible With Your SMART Goals if Needed
All this information will combine to help you define and reach SMART goals. But, remember, the SMART criteria is not chiseled in stone. It can be flexible and is open to revision as needed. So, monitor and evaluate key metrics as your project progresses to make sure that the goal you set is in fact smart!
Turn Goals Into Action With ProjectManager
Defining your goals and objectives before starting a project is smart. Determining that those goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-related is SMARTer! Once you’re ready to take action, using a project management tool is the smartest. ProjectManager is an award-winning software that helps turn your goals and objectives into a reality.
Lay It Out on a Gantt Chart
Use the Gantt tool to add a duration to each task—once done, our software will populate a timeline for the entire project. You can link dependent tasks to avoid bottlenecks. Add priority and other tags to make the tasks easy to search and find. Then break the project into phases, which makes it easier to track, by adding milestones.
Track Your Progress with Reports
One-click reports get deeper into the data, which can be filtered and shared with stakeholders, who have a vested interest in seeing the project succeed. Smart goals and objectives need a smart project management tool.
To successfully use SMART as a method to determine the feasibility of your goals, you’ll need project management software that can help at every stage of your project. ProjectManager is an online tool that has planning, scheduling and reporting features that help managers create and complete SMART goals. See for yourself with this free 30-day trial.