This is the time of year when people typically take stock of where they are and make resolutions for the New Year. In setting goals for 2016, it is useful to be reminded about the now classic advice about maximizing the chances of success by setting ‘SMART’ goals.
What are SMART Goals?
The acronym stands for goals that are:
Whether for business, work, health or family, SMART goals are important
Specific goals are concrete and easy to understand and picture. As a result such goals are far more likely to be pursued and accomplished. One way to make them specific is to address the fundamental “W” questions:
*Who: Who is involved?
*What: What do I want to accomplish?
*Where: Is it to be performed?
*When: What is the time frame and schedule by which it must be done?
*Which: What resources are required and challenges that must be overcome?
*Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal?
Example: A general goal would be I’m going to get fit and strong. Far better is I am going to develop and adhere to a regular workout routine of 4 days per week including 2 weight sessions, 1 High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) and 1 steady cardio session. Then go on to detail exactly what you will do on each of those days.
- Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
There is much truth to the saying, common in business and other organisations, that what gets measured gets done. It is important to think about a way to measure and track progress towards your goals. The more concrete these criteria can be the better. A good example is the sales process whereby the system tracks, hours on the phone, number of calls made, number of leads generated, number of appointments set, number of closes made, volume of sales, and so on. It is important not to have too many.
Charting your progress towards the goal ensures you stay on track plus you get the positive reinforcement of achieving your mini-goals along the way. When you get off track you get early notice and the opportunity to adjust your sails and set forth anew. You are once more on course towards achieving your goal.
Developing measures of progress involves asking ‘how’ questions. How much? How many? How often? How will you know when it is accomplished?
It is very useful to develop dashboards that use a traffic light system: green meaning that you are on track; yellow when you are just short; and red when you are far off target.
Don’t try to measure everything. Many organisations make a mistake of adopting so many metrics that the participants are overwhelmed by detail and lose sight of the big picture. The detail is predominantly needed when you are conducting an analysis of what is going wrong.
Example: In getting strong, I will be able to 20 push-ups and 5 unassisted chin-ups. In getting fit, I will be improve my HITT time by 10-20 seconds and steady state cardio by 1 km.
Goals should be attainable. When goals are specific, well planned, adequately resourced and realistic, it is amazing what can be achieved. At the same time, it is also important to be realistic. Otherwise a goal can be a disincentive or no incentive. When you begin to look at attainability you also are more likely to see opportunities that were missed, resources that were not tapped into, etc. This in turn leads to reaching what at first blush seems a very aggressive and even unattainable goal.
Goals need to be realistic. They need to make sense and be aligned with the overarching values of the person or organisation. One also needs to be realistic in terms of the cost, time and other resources required to be committed to achieving the goal. A person who has not previously exercised, for example, is not going to suddenly exercise every day and smash out 20 pushups or run 10km. A goal must be contextualised. In other words it must also be assessed in relation to all the other activities going on.
Goals should have a timeframe that is both realistic and appropriate. That timeframe should spell out who is going to do what by when and with whom. If your goal is to lose weight, for example, there is little point and it is even counterproductive to be overly aggressive and think that the weight you took a year to put on will come off in one month.
Some writers use the ‘T’ for tangible. If you can tie the goal to your senses (sight, smell, touch, taste) it will make it more real and likely to motivate.
True happiness and the maximisation of human potential comes from achievement of goals, whether they are personal, professional, as a member of a team or as a citizen of a country. When we achieve our goals we are growing and learning and that in the end is the essence of life, the joy of the journey. Through the achievement of our goals, we as individuals and as a society advance and hopefully, leave the world a better place for our children and generations to come. When we set SMART goals we maximize the chances that the goals and our dreams will be achieved. Have a great 2016!