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What is a “SMART” Objective?

By M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

In strategic planning, we often talk about “SMART” objectives.  But when it comes down to actually picking our objectives, are we really being smart, or are we simply reaching for an easy way out?

We define an objective as a task or project that is necessary to accomplish, but for which we do not have an established procedure.  The task is supposed to be strategic in nature, meaning that it is necessary to accomplish the task in order to further our progress in our strategies.

What are the characteristics of a “SMART” objective”?  Convention says that each objective should be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-related.  We will examine what each of these characteristics means and how they contribute to the overall strategy of the organization.

SPECIFIC: When an objective is specific, it is well-defined about what has to be achieved to accomplish the task.  This requires the objective to be stated well enough that everyone who works on completing this objective understands what is to be accomplished, how it is to be accomplished and why it is a part of the overall strategy of the organization.

MEASURABLE: When an objective is truly measurable, it means that the outcome of the task not only is well-defined (specific), but that its contribution to the overall strategy of the organization is clear and unambiguous.  There should be some form of metric which can measure how well the objective’s results contribute to the success of the organization.

ACHIEVABLE: The resources of the organization must be sufficient to actually carry out the objective.  If the company can’t dedicate both the capital and people to execute the steps of the action plan which provides a roadmap of the steps necessary to achieve the objective, then it really doesn’t meet the goal of being achievable.  Appropriate inputs of funds and time must be allocated in order to actually complete the action plan covering the objective.

RELEVANT: Is the objective appropriate and necessary to carry out the strategies of the organization?  If not, it is not relevant to the goals of the organization and likely should be dropped in favor of an objective which will further the organization’s strategies.

TIME-RELATED: Every objective, indeed every step of every action plan, should have a time for action and dates for completion.  Without the guidance and pressure of these time-related factors, actions will often be postponed and neglected.  The efficacy of the objective will be compromised and the strategies of the organization hindered.  These are not the outcomes desired when the organization started strategic planning, and should be avoided whenever possible.

If you are having difficulties achieving your objectives, contact me at baldwin@cssp.com or at 616-575-3193 to discuss how we may help you be more effective in your strategic planning and in the execution of your strategic plans and objectives.

To learn ways to take your strategic planning to the next level please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: baldwin@cssp.com

© Copyright 2016 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.