One idea many of us have heard is the benefit in creating goals and objectives that are SMART. Google will give you quite a few definitions of the “SMART objective,” and in fact, you may have some of your own (I would love to hear your definitions/variations). Most of the time, the “SMART objective” will look similar to the first hit I found on Wikipedia:
- S – Specific
Wikipedia’s definition is not the only and “correct” one. “A” sometimes shows up as “Achievable,” and often times, “Realistic” will be substituted for “R”. These two letters seem to have the most variation. While I am in agreement with the letters, “S”, “M”, and “T,” I have my own variations on “A” and “R” as well. For example, if you read my last post, it would not be difficult for you to deduce that “Aligned” would serve as my “A”. Other popular “A’s” are: assignable, achievable, or actionable. I, however, will advocate for “aligned.”
Within any quality performance process/system, an important requirement for any employee is their ability to see and take responsibility for goals that align with departmental and organizational objectives. Essentially, the employee needs to be able to see how their work impacts the big picture.
Now some might say: isn’t “aligned” simply synonymous to “relevant?”
Responding to that, I ask: do you want to simply be relevant within the organization, or structure your goals to align to the specific goals of the organization knowing that you are making a direct impact? In other words, would you rather be a cog or truly help the organization move forward in a collective manner?
It becomes pretty clear that “relevant” isn’t the best choice for “R” when setting goals. I help organizations all over the world try to achieve a Performance Based Culture and “attainable” and “relevant” just don’t cut it. The “R” in SMART is critical when setting your goals in an organization that is performance based, because it is important that the employee knows what it means to raise the bar, to reach (and stretch) by going beyond the expectations.
I remember working for Greg, my first VP of HR, at Pfizer in NYC. Coming out of grad school, Greg was an amazing leader. He was someone you always wanted to please, and you would work your tail off to do it. I really enjoyed getting feedback from Greg, and he would always make sure to take time during every week to sit down and check in to see how things were going as well as ask me challenging questions. I would ask him what he thought about different projects I was working on, and he would always let me know. But no matter what his answer was, I’d immediately ask him, ‘what would it take to make it even better?’ I craved to know what it would look like in his eyes to ‘raise the bar’, to ‘reach’ to the next level. This was a great way of calibrating with my leader, and understanding how to manage expectations. There was never any second guessing, and I always knew where I stood with Greg.
Your performance system can always get SMARTer, and in summary, here is my take on the “SMART objective” definition:
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Aligned
- R – Reach or Raise the bar
- T – Time Bound