What are SMART goals?
In project management, setting effective goals and objectives is one way to achieve desired outcomes. One popular goal-setting technique is SMART. But what are SMART goals and how can project managers use them effectively and to their project’s advantage?
Definition of SMART goals
SMART goals are clearly formulated to be successful based on five simple principles while regular goals are outcomes you agree to strive for when you begin a project. In the acronym SMART, each letter represents one of these principles. If you create a goal, it must follow all five letters if you want it to be effective based on these principles.
Although the term first appeared in a 1981 issue of a business management magazine, SMART goals were born from psychological theory created in the late 1960s when researchers began testing the relationship between conscious decision-making and output. In Dr. Edwin Locke’s often quoted paper on the subject, he notes that “an individual's conscious ideas regulate his actions” and have a direct relationship to goal execution. People who set the intention to succeed by fully articulating a goal can achieve more than they could if they simply chose the desired outcome then went through the motions.
His study also finds that it isn’t money, results, or external pressures that motivate high performance. It’s simply the act of breaking down a hard goal into a conscious purpose that others willingly share. So even though you can’t force someone to get excited about a project, you can set them up for success with highly structured objectives using the SMART goal method.
Examples of SMART goals for project managers
As you’ll see from these examples, SMART goals can be applied to all aspects of project management including tool acquisition, ongoing assignments, and even tasks that are halfway done. Simplifying your SMART goal into one simple sentence like the ones below is a powerful tool for aligning your whole team around a shared intention. So even if you have more details and an action plan for your SMART goal, make sure you use your summarized SMART goal as a north star.
- Adopt a work management tool (specific) that organizes at least 50 (measurable) incoming work requests per week (attainable) so that our team can streamline task assignment (relevant) within the 30 days of receipt (time-bound).
- Create a social media marketing campaign template (specific) that plans out 1 daily Tweet every day for the next 30 days (measurable and attainable) to increase existing audience engagement (relevant) before our launch on the 1st of the upcoming month (time-bound).
- Realign the current project deliverables schedule (specific) by assigning new due dates to all 3 small tasks (measurable) over the next 7 days (attainable) so that the original deadline remains the same (relevant) and clients can review the tasks by Friday (time-bound).