S.M.A.R.T Goals May Not Be Enough

“A goal without a plan, is just a wish” _Antoine De-Saint Exupery

Anyone who has had the task of implementing corporate goals or has studied goal setting in the last forty years has heard of the term S.M.A.R.T goals. The acronym stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. S.M.A.R.T provides a generally useful tool and has been accepted as the benchmark for setting goals.

In our goal setting workshops, S.M.A.R.T is used as a framework to develop strategically relevant goals . However, we have found that, it isn’t enough. Often times, S.M.A.R.T is presented too simplistically to inspire and influence real, meaningful change. Answers to each stage are either answered as a simple “Yes/No” or targets are one-dimensional.

In our opinion, goal setting does not start at “S, it starts two steps earlier at “V”, for Vision. This stage is the most enjoyable and inspiring stage of the goal setting process. The Vision stage allows you to let your imagination run wild. Think about your wildest goals, what you would like to achieve if you had no limitations. You may have heard of “Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals”, BHAGS from Jim Collins, 2001 book, Good to Great. Go Big, or Go Home.

In recent years, research has demonstrated that the human brain is inspired to find solutions for challenging goals. Do you remember a time, when you were faced with a challenging problem that you thought was beyond you? You experienced confusion and overwhelm, and when all seemed lost, you started to find solutions, often times, when you least expected to, and the project was completed successfully?

These are the types of visionary goals you need in the first instance.

The next phase is Discovery, which is where we put on our thinking caps, and logically assess the merit of these visionary targets. Discovery includes assessing the resources that are required to make this target a Smart and Measureable goal. However, don’t be too logical or analytical, to the extent that it destroys the creativity from the Vision stage.

A crucial part is to assess risks that may be identified which will impact upon you achieving your goals. You need to and hopefully eliminate any limiting challenges or beliefs that you are confronted with, not only from the general environment or organisational level but also from you personally. You must be “comfortable” with the goals that you set. If you generally have a risk-averse personality, there is no point setting a BHAG, that makes you anxious and keeps you awake at night. This is why your goals need to be Achievable and Realistic.

The next step is to set key deadlines. You may be familiar with the quote above, a small amendment makes the quote even more crucial, “a goal without a deadline, is just a dream”. It is crucial that you set milestones, for critical tasks, which act as waypoints that ensure that you are on the right path. Accountability is crucial to the goal setting process and your milestones give you targets that you can aim for during the journey.

Okay, now that is done, your goals are set, you can take a moment and pat yourself on the back and lock them in. If not, tweak them as required and then move on.

Think back to the best conference that you ever went to. Are you done, do you have one? Remember when you were at the conference, buzzing with great ideas, full of inspiration and keen to get back to work and implement your ideas. Then, work got in the way and the conference became a memory. After setting your goals, you need to be aware that this is a critical risk to avoid. Taking action and implementing your plan is crucial, many strategic plans have been found in the bottom draw, never to be implemented. Don’t give up on your goals because you failed to implement your plan. Take Action, NOW!

The final two steps are follow up activities, they are, review your plan and if necessary re-direct your action. If you feel that you have made a mistake, admit it, accept it and “fail fast”, move on with a new plan. Don’t persist with a bad plan and hope that it will get better, in my experience, it won’t.

When setting your goals, don’t get carried away with complicated plans, keep it simple. Identify, those key goals that will make the most significant change to you and your business. Commit yourself to this goal and make a start. Monitor your performance and check in with your milestones. Keep moving forward and review your performance.

Just like a sporting team, it can help to work with a coach who will drive you to work toward your goals and provide a level of accountability to help you stay on track. If you have been struggling to implement and reach your goals, give us a call on 02 4942 1839 or click here to send us an email.