Being S.M.A.R.T. About your objectives

Goals and objectives are often used interchangeably, but they are different.

Here’s a good definition that I found on the michigan.gov website:

Goals are general guidelines that explain what you want to achieve in your community. They are usually long-term and represent global visions such as “protect public health and safety.”

Objectives define strategies or implementation steps to attain the identified goals. Unlike goals, objectives are specific, measurable, and have a specified completion date. They are more accurate and outline the “who, what, when, where, and how” of reaching the goals.

Objectives and Goals Illustrated

Objectives and Goals Illustrated

Another thing we learn from the picture above is that clear objectives make it easy to see where we are headed. To get to clear objectives, we should remember to make them S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific: use precise language:
    • “We want to grow business 20% within region X”,
    • “We want to secure 25% of the connections per quarter, and have all our connections secured by December 31st.”
  • Measurable: make sure you can measure the progress you’re making while implementing your objective.  Do not express it in terms that cannot be measured or that can be measured only with great effort.  In the first case, you won’t be able to know if you’re progressing in the right direction; in the second, you will measure only sparingly because it is so hard, and you won’t be able to tell if you’re progressing either.
  • Attainable: only Hollywood movies or superhero scenarios benefit from unachievable goals. In real life, people get demotivated from trying to achieve the unachievable. This doesn’t mean that you can’t stretch the realm of what is possible, but it still has to feel achievable.
  • Relevant: when something is relevant to you and your team, you’ll be (more) motivated to make it happen than if it isn’t. Make sure that you, your team, your company, or community benefit from achieving the objective.
  • Timely / Time-bound: it is easier to focus and stay motivated when you know up-front how long it will take. Of course, part of the fun is in the journey itself, but still.

Once you have your S.M.A.R.T. goals, make sure to follow-up on them (too many end up in a drawer) and make sure that the right people are aware of your objectives.