How You Can Use SMART to Successfully Deliver on Your Goals
Updated: Oct 8
One way to develop goals for you or your team is to create them using the SMART method. Here's a quick recap of the SMART method:
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Relevant
T - Time-bound
A specific goal details what it is that you or your team needs to accomplish. If no one knows what they’re supposed to do, no one’s ever going to do it. It’s as simple as that.
A measurable goal explains when you or the team will know the goal has been achieved. For example, it can be measured in terms of yes or no, total numbers produced, revenue generated, percentage of effectiveness, etc.
An achievable goal makes it a realistic goal. The team must have the skill set and resources available to attain that goal or it’s not achievable. There’s no point in setting a goal that’s totally unachievable, like selling 100 widgets when you only have 37 in the inventory with no additional widgets coming in.
A relevant goal needs to show how it fits into the overarching plan. If the goal is to earn $1M in revenue this year and the subgoal is to add at least 250 new clients per quarter at $1,000 each, then the subgoal is relevant because it makes sense how this would lead towards earning $1M in revenue this year.
A time bound goal sets a realistic timeframe in which the goal should be accomplished. By setting a time boundary on when the goal needs to be accomplished, you will give yourself or your team a way to pace yourselves.
Why Using the SMART Method is Helpful
A SMART goal is a road map you can use to help you focus on what, how and when something needs to be accomplished.
Recently, my command team (comprised of my Senior Enlisted Leader, my First Sergeant and myself) had a goal centered on the annual Defense Organizational Climate Survey. This survey is a tool for commanders to assess the health of the unit’s work environment and can reveal areas of concern as well as areas that are doing well. It’s a great way to determine work culture, but only if people take the time to complete the survey.
It is mandatory for a commander to have the survey available for the unit to complete; it is not mandatory for anyone to complete it. In my experience with this survey, both as a commander and member filling out the survey, participation rates are traditionally low. It takes time to complete because it feels like there are hundreds of questions and the only people who are motivated to complete it are angry or upset about something. In many cases, the deadline to accomplish the survey has to be extended in order to capture a statistically significant number of responses.
My goal for this survey was as follows: Achieve a 50% or greater participation rate on the Defense Organizational Climate Survey within the three-week allotted time frame without having to extend the deadline.
1. Specific: My team knew exactly what we were trying to accomplish.
2. Measurable: We would measure completion of the goal by the percentage of finished surveys, in this case, 50%.
3. Achievable: Everyone had the tools available to accomplish this. The survey was sent out via email with a link and instructions on how to access the survey.
4. Relevant: My team understood the importance and value of this survey. We knew the results of a statistically significant number of results would be helpful in giving us direction on how best to lead the team.
5. Time-bound: We had three weeks to achieve this goal.
I’m proud to say we accomplished this goal. In less than three weeks, we were able to attain a 65% response rate, which equated to 76 individual surveys. For the first time in four years as a squadron commander, I didn’t have to extend the deadline. And the responses were overwhelmingly detailed, thoughtful, honest and helpful. They ranged from the angry employees to the ones who were delighted to come to work each day.
Most importantly, my team and I were able to use this information to grow work culture we desired.
Next time you set a goal, try using SMART to successfully deliver on that goal!
Comment below: Do you like using the SMART method to develop your leadership goals? What other methods do you use? I'd love to hear of an example of how you've successfully used SMART to achieve your goals.