Avoid These Two Major Flaws During Goal Development

In our last several newsletters, we’ve covered some of the strategic planning basics as a review before you develop your plan. In this segment, we’ll look at two common problems we see during goal development and a quick review on the importance SMART goals.

We know you’ve heard the song-and-dance on SMART goals before. Before you roll your eyes and scoff, now is a good time to take a step back and think about how you develop your goals.

As strategists in the field, you should be aware of two common pitfalls we see during goal development:

  1. Organizations don’t follow the principle at all. This cause-effect situation is simple – goals that don’t satisfy at least some of the SMART goal criteria are vague and won’t help drive strategic results. The entire reason to follow the structure is so you can provide clarity around what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you can measure success.
  2. Organizations overcomplicate their SMART goals. While they’ve satisfied the criteria of the acronym, some organizations over-engineer their goals. These goals become so complicated they can’t be understood or executed.

Because of these two common problems, often we find ourselves helping clients rewrite their goals. It may seem basic, but having a plan with poorly written goals makes the plan fall apart before it’s even implemented. Plus, it’s always better to get it done correctly the first time.

To help you avoid these two types of flawed goals, we’ve tweaked the standard SMART acronym just slightly to add depth so you can better grasp the concept. You can also watch our video on SMART goals for this information here.

S – Specific. You want to know what the goal means when you read it again in a few months. Fight the urge to be brief here and opt for clarity.

M – Measurable. You need to have a clear measure for each goal. Make sure you define and clearly communicate its data source.

A – Actionable. Good goals start with a verb that adds motion. Action verbs tell you what you’re doing.

R – Realistic. This is one of the areas where we’ve tweaked the traditional acronym. In addition to having an owner responsible for the outcome, good goals can be realistically achieved within a certain timeframe. Lofty thoughts or aspirations don’t belong here – those belong in vision statements.

T – Time Bound.  Goals need to be executable within a defined time. Depending on what level each goal is at within the plan will help dictate it’s time. Strategic objectives should be within the year. Corporate goals may be yearly or quarterly. Action items and initiatives are within a quarterly period or less.

As a final note to SMART goal development, make sure to have a little heart or passion when answering the question “why” for each goal. Make sure you communicate why each goal is important to your success. It’s an easy way to help the goal owner understand the impact of their work and why it’s important for your organization’s success.

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