Setting Smart Goals

Written by Joe Driscoll

November 17, 2009

In the movies the good guys never run out of bullets. But in the real world its a different story. When we strap on our six shooters each morning and head to the office, we’ve only got a few bullets in each gun. We can’t afford to shoot at everything that moves, we need to chose our targets carefully.

In order to improve performance it’s necessary to set objectives and goals. To be successful in accomplishing your goals and objectives you must limit them to a few key objectives.

If your daily yellow pad has 33 to-do items on it, you know there’s no way that you’ll be able to get to the end of the list by the end of the day. You’ve created a built in excuse for failure. But if your yellow pad only as 3 objectives on it, you’ll know your day’s work is not complete until you’ve done each one of those items. You’ve established a reasonable objective.

As a manager, when you create too many goals and objectives not only do you create built-in excuse for lack of performance, but you also create confusion. Only the leader within an organization can remove the clutter that is created with too many goals and objectives.

There’s only so much time, only so many resources. It’s a managers job to insure that these few “bullets” are directed at the right targets. If time and the energy are sapped by inconsequential activities there won’t be sufficient resources to accomplish the truly important goals. The object of the manager’s activity is to create an environment where all the time and all the resources and all the energy can be focused on the truly important objectives of the organization.

The key to establishing successful goal oriented behavior is to be SMART. SMART represents the characteristics of successful goal oriented behavior. You need to establish goals that are Specific. Your goals must be easily Measured. They must be within your power to Achieve. Your goals must be Realistic. And finally, you need to adhere to a Time table for the completion of your goal.

We are all motivated to achieve. However, our good intentions need to be funneled into specifics in order to enable us to achieve our potential as individuals and organizations. Establishing goals and objectives that are too general is as unproductive as shooting at too many targets. Successful goal setting demands Specifics!

Don’t set goals that aren’t Measurable. If you can’t measure your progress, you’ll never know if you are making any. Positive feedback is the greatest of motivators. If don’t know how you are doing, you will have robbed yourself of this valuable aid. What’s more, if you can’t measure your progress, you will never know when the journey is over.

Establish goals that are Achievable. If you are in last place and want to be in first, don’t try to make the jump at once. Take it one step at a time. If you establish unattainable goals, you are making up the rules that may dictate your own failure.

The inherent desire to set goals that are too high is one of the biggest problems in developing successful goal oriented behavior. Remember that we all love to exceed our goals. Most people won’t “take their packs off” after they achieve their objective, they become more inspired. The greater risk with goals that are too high is that part way through the journey, the objective is realized to be unattainable and all motivation is lost in a sea of futility.

Your goals should be Realistic. We all have some limits as to what we can accomplish at any given time. By setting too many otherwise appropriate goals, individually achievable goals can become unattainable. “Too few bullets, too many targets”

Without a Time frame against which you can judge progress, the best of goals can become meaningless. “We will design two new products.” Sounds great, and you might well succeed – someday. But when? You need to know not only when you succeed, but when you are falling behind schedule. “We will design two new products in each quarter during the current year” is a statement that provides a needed time frame.

Compensate for your lack of ammunition by being SMART in picking your targets!

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