Goals. It seems that people either love them or hate them. Some of us love goals because it gives us a target to strive for. Those of us who hate goals may not like the pressure they feel when that goal becomes public information.
In a report published in Entrepreneur, goals serve a valuable psychological function for individuals and organizations. Setting goals changes the way our brains work and our motivation increases and achievement also increases by 30%. The importance of goals isn’t just limited to creating them, but it is to think about what you hope to accomplish and make smart goals, SMART goals.
What are SMART goals?
SMART goals are not just making goals that make sense to you and others, SMART goals are ones that are defined by an acronym:
If goals do not have these five elements, they are less likely to be met, and even if they are, they may not mean as much as they should.
A specific goal means that it is clear who will achieve the goal, when it will be measured, and why that goal was chosen. A bad smart goal would be to say that sales will go up. Really? Where? For whom? By how much? A good smart goal would be that steel sales will go up in Boston by 3% by the end of July. That is a more specific goal.
The second part of the SMART goal is to be measurable. Business.com recommends that goal is appropriately measurable when it answers how much, how often, and how many. The point of having a specific measurement is that what get accomplished. Measurable and specific will also consider that the bottom line has increased by 3%, but we increased our prices by 4%. What about actual movement of product? That is the thing that will be measured.
The third part of SMART goals is attainable. At first glance, if I want sales to go up by 3%, why not say that I want sales to go up 10%? Then, even if I fail at 10%, I might make 3%. Referring to psychology of goals once again, if you know that a goal is impossible to achieve then you will likely not even work to achieve the goal. Setting a goal at 10% when 3% is challenging means that you will likely not try as hard as you should or otherwise would. Attainable goals are especially important when working with teams. One person with unattainable goals is bad, but a group of people with unattainable goals is worse. Then you have an entire team of people not committing to achieving the goal.
Relevant goals are also important. It is important that leadership find goals that are relevant to the organization, and something that will make sense to the team. The danger is to set a goal that is too easy so the team will achieve it. The problem is that the team will know there is no challenge and the goal turns out to be a lack of faith. Or, if the goal is too difficult to achieve, there is no buy in. There must also be a tie-in to the central goal of the business. A goal lacking that relevance is a complete waste of time.
Finally, it is important that goals for organizations are time based. This allows the team or the individual to sit down and think about what needs to be done and by what time. To increase sales by 3% I need to find two new customers in my area. I need to get three businesses who get some supplies from a competitor to get all supplies from us. And, I need to have mini-deadlines to accomplish these individual steps.
When an organization sits down to create their own SMART goals, they need to be clear in their own mind what they want to accomplish and by when. “To get better” is not a SMART goal. A specific area to get better at might be. Fewer customer complaints, less turnover, fewer products sent to the wrong address. If any of those things are causing problems, they can be turned into SMART goals.