Each year many work teams set goals for the coming year and leadership teams determine their objectives for their organizations. During the goal and objective setting process, the term SMART goal is often used without much thought as to what it may mean as an overall working plan. SMART goals are a way to not only decide what to do, but how to do it in a way that can easily be tracked to determine whether or not progress is made and know when the goals are met. In this type of goal, the acronym in SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.

Specific describes the details of what is to be accomplished in a clear and simple way. The goal must be easy to understand and well defined in order to make achieving it possible. Unclear goals are easily misunderstood and therefore typically do not accomplish the desired results. Being specific answers the question of what has to be done so that appropriate actions can be taken.

Measurable uses quantifiable terms in order to compare where the goal is in reaching the desired target. Establishing performance criteria for measuring the goal will allow for changes during the goal period in order to manage the process and stay on track to meeting the target. Utilizing a definite tracking method shows how much will be gained by accomplishing the goal and encourages continued improvement.

Attainable means the goal is within the ability and capability of those involved while stretching their collective talents to reach the most desirable target. It means that the defined goal is both possible and realistic while still being challenging for the organization and its people. Having a goal that stretches people and allows for growth opportunity often leads to very worthwhile business results.

Relevant indicates the goal is not only within reach of skill levels but also has meaning and relates directly to the purpose or vision of those who are responsible for meeting the goal. Relevancy means everyone involved can understand how they influence the goal and how it affects them. When a goal is relevant to those involved it increases commitment and makes meeting the goal a highly motivational tool.

Time-based defines a period for meeting the measurements in the goal or a deadline date for accomplishing the overall target goal. Having a time frame established allows a frequency for monitoring progress, staying on track, making adjustments to meet the overall goal, and gaining momentum with each accomplishment along the goal path. Without a time-based element to the goal, it will be impossible to make a targeted plan.

Use the acronym SMART to establish goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. SMART goals may be used as an effective way to decide what to do in the coming year and where to make changes if the tracked goals are not progressing as desired. During the yearly goal or objective setting process, be sure to use the SMART goal definition when working on a plan for the future of a team or organization.