Raymond Lee

Raymond Lee

Refining SMART Goals to Achieve Results

Career development

Refining SMART goals to achieve results

Artwork by: Sasha Bogatov

  • What are SMART goals? 
  • Gather Resources You Will Need
  • Develop SMART Goals
  • Revisit Goals throughout the Year
  • Reading Resources

“If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.” — Yogi Berra

Individual goal setting is important because it sets out a roadmap for your future and gives you motivation to make that future a reality.  Successful business-people and achievers in any field regularly set goals, measure their progress against those goals, and adjust their course of action/ behavior accordingly to ensure that they achieve their goals.  Developing individual SMART goals is essential to achieving both the financial/business goals of your organization as well as your own personal career goals.

People tend to fall short in writing goals because the goals are not SMART, and therefore do not achieve the results that will excel them to the next level.

What are SMART goals? 

“SMART” is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Oriented. Writing SMART goals ensures that the goals are targeted to achieve the organization’s key issues.  In other words, SMART goals are:

  • Specific – What needs to be done?

  • Measurable – Can it be measured? Is it possible to verify the results through either numeric measures or observation?

  • Attainable – It is important to keep goals ambitious but at the same time achievable.

  • Relevant – Does the goal contribute to the execution of the organization’s strategic plan?  Is it something that you can impact?

  • Time-Oriented – Establish a reasonable time frame for completion of the goal.

Is this a SMART goal?  Process all new claims in timely manner.No, it does not meet all of the criteria.  While the individual may know what needs to be done (process all new claims), they do not know how they will be measured (quantity, quality, or both), or the time parameter that they are expected to work within.

Is this a SMART goal?  Close all new auto damage claims within 30 days of receipt of loss while maintaining a leakage ratio of less than 2%.  Yes, this goal is more specific.  It provides clarity regarding how the individual will be measured in terms of timeliness, quantity, and quality. 

Now that you have an understanding of what SMART goals are, let us begin the work of writing your own SMART goals.

Gather Resources You Will Need

The following resources will help you develop your goals and measures:

  • Your organization’s strategic plan document

  • Your manager’s goals

  • Position descriptions and/or performance standards for your job

  • The job description of a future position that you are interested in being promoted to

  • List of SMART goals action verbs

Develop SMART Goals

Goal setting is a multi-step process.  When you follow these steps, you will create goals that will lead to your success and help you contribute to the success of the organization.

Review your organization’s goals in the strategic plan

Identify the key issues/objectives that you believe your position influences or impacts.  (If available, your manager’s performance plan can provide insight into key issues/objectives for your goals).

Review your primary job responsibilities and determine how they relate to the organization and work unit

Identify primary job responsibilities that: a) contribute to the achievement of key organizational issues and strategic business objectives; and b) relate to key operational responsibilities in your work unit.  Examples:  managing the budget, developing new products, developing employees, and managing continuous improvement initiatives.

Identify the value-added results you produce for each primary job responsibility

People often confuse activity with results.  A good goal defines a measurable result, describing what is to be achieved, accomplished, or produced through your effort.  By contrast, activities are things that you do to produce the result.  Goals should be written in terms of results achieved, not in terms of activities that produce the results.  The examples below demonstrate the difference.

Activities

Results

Analyse cost structure

Reduced operating costs

Develop strategy to capture market share

Increased market share

Develop new product

Product that meets customer needs

Write development plan

Motivated, productive employees

  • SMART goals for the most important value-added results you produce

You should have between 3 to 5 business-related goals, plus 2 to 3 goals related to your personal development (career goals).  Good goals are:

Remember to use the SMART acronym:

  • Specific – What needs to be done?

  • Measurable – Can it be measured? Is it possible to verify the results through either numeric measures or observation?

  • Attainable – It is important to keep goals ambitious but at the same time achievable.

  • Relevant – Does the goal contribute to the execution of the organization’s strategic plan?  Is it something that you can impact?

  • Time-Oriented – Establish a reasonable time frame for completion of the goal.

Review your SMART goals with your manager/accountability partner to ensure they meet the SMART requirements.  Keep in mind that you want to develop good SMART goals that stretch you.  These results should be visible to your colleagues and peers.

Define specific performance measures and standards for your goals

You need to establish a means of measuring your performance against the goal.  This includes 3 elements:

The following example illustrates each of these components using the previous example goal:

Goal

Performance

Measure

Performance Standard

Tracking

Process new auto damage losses

within 30 days of receipt of loss

while maintaining less than a 2% leakage ratio

Turnaround Time (Timeliness Measure)

 

 

% of leakage (Cost Measure)

30 days

Meets Expectations: Achieve turnaround time on 90% of files.

Exceed Expectations:

Achieve turnaround time on 95% of files.

Not to exceed 2%

Monthly review of turnaround report

 

 

Quarterly file audits using random sampling of closed files

Performance measures usually fall into one of four categories:

  1. Quantity – How many, how much needs to be produced

  2. Quality – How well (with what degree of accuracy) something needs to be completed

  3. Cost – Dollars gained or lost; expense of producing or providing something

  4. Timeliness – Cycle time for an activity

All results cannot be measured with numbers.  Some results are best evaluated by observing and describing how well an individual performs against an established standard.  Therefore, either numbers or descriptive evaluation can be effective.  The key is to ensure that the measurement criteria are a true indicator of whether the result has been achieved. 

  • Assign a weight or priority to each goal.  A weight or priority needs to be assigned to each goal in order to help prioritize its importance.  Assign the most weight to the goal that contributes most significantly to the organization achieving its results.  The remaining goals should be weighted according to their importance in achieving the strategic plan.  All weights when added together should total 100%.

  • Review and finalize goals with your manager.  Meet with your manager to review your goals, measures, and weightings.  Look to your manager to help you fine-tune your goals for the coming year.

Revisit Goals throughout the Year

These goals should be re-visited and reviewed throughout the year to ensure that you are on track to reach your goals.  You should set up meetings periodically with your manager and any others (accountability partner, peers, and other department managers) to get feedback on your performance against these goals.  Utilize any methods of data collection that you set out in your goals document (reports, audits, feedback) to measure yourself.  Adjust your actions/behaviors accordingly to ensure that you are on track to meet or exceed your goals.  If necessary, ask your manager or others for suggestions to ensure goal achievement. 

Reading Resources

Review the SMART Goal Setting document for a list of action verbs and a list of common measures (both quantifiable and observable) you can use when writing your goals.

Raymond Lee

Raymond Lee

Raymond Lee has over 25 years of human resource, outplacement, and career coaching experience. He is also an industrial/organizational psychologist and a certified retirement coach.  Raymond has contributed to SHRM, ATD, and other publications on the topics of the future of work, employee experience and offboarding, ageism and bias in the workplace, and career fulfillment. 

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