Your SMART Goals Suck – Fix Them

Feb 23, 2015

In order to reach your strategic objectives, you need to set goals – short-term, more immediate milestones that stretch your company to reach its full potential. We’re just going to move past the Business 101 speak about the importance of SMART goals because you’ve already heard that song-and-dance.

It’s pretty common knowledge goals should be SMART. But, for being something that’s taught even in entry level business courses, people really suck at creating them.

First, the really basic overview. You know, the surface-level definition:

  • Specific: Try to answer the questions of How much and What kind with each goal you write.
  • Measurable: Goals must be stated in quantifiable terms.
  • Attainable: Goals must be achievable, or they’re a set-up for failure.
  • Responsible person: Goals must be assigned to a person or a department.
  • Time specific: Goals must include a timeline of when your goals should start and be accomplished.

Here it is, all wrapped up: Increase participation of Central City Disease Prevention Program from 100,000 participants to 500,000 participants by 2015.

But you know what? That’s just flat out uninspiring. So we’ve created a three-step shortcut to create awesome and inspiring SMART goals every single time:

  1. Start with a verb: Obviously, the point of the goal is to achieve something. Starting with a strong verb gives good direction of how you’ll achieve said goal. It’ll provide direction, clarity, and momentum to achieving a vision.
  2. Focus on the M&T’s: The most important part of the acronym is the Measurable and Time specific portions. Goals have to be measured against something and bound to some sort of timeline. Period, end of story.
  3. Find some passion: Creating boring goals is sort of like over-cooking something; no-one wants to eat something that is dry and doesn’t taste good. Create something with passion and heart, something that your team can connect to. You want them to say, “Yes, I want to do that.” Remember, it’s all about people.

Here’s how it works in action:

Lame SMART Goal: Increase participation of Central City Disease Prevention Program from 100,000 participants to 500,000 participants by 2015.

Awesome SMART Goal: Improve the health and quality of life of Central City citizens by enrolling eligible participants in the Central City Disease Prevention Program.

  • Measure: Number of Participants
  • Target: 500,000
  • End Date: 12/31/2015
  • Owner: Enrollment Office

However, you can have SMART goals that still won’t get you anywhere. The key is focusing them and making them powerful enough so that your organization gets behind them. Without a driving force, your SMART goals just became really, really dumb.

“Goals are Dreams with Deadlines.” – Diana Scharf Hunt


  1. Louis Christie says:

    I cannot download The Practical Guide to the Balanced Scorecard. I would love to read it.

    • Shannon Sage says:

      Hi Louis-
      If you click on the green button then enter in your work email you will be able to download the guide. If you need any further assistance you can give us a call at 775-747-7407.

  2. Steve Chittenden says:

    What a great way to put the ‘sizzle’ into what could just be an otherwise drab exercise! Thank you for sharing…



What is 2 + 13 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
All fields are required.

Join 60,000 other leaders engaged in transforming their organizations.

Subscribe to get the latest agile strategy best practices, free guides, case studies, and videos in your inbox every week.

Keystone bright-path authority-partners iowa caa maw maryland mc kissimmee dot washoe gulf reno