Far too many projects fail due to a lack of clarity. How do you get to your destination if you are not 100% clear on where you are going? Many teams struggle for the same reason. Team members are all working hard. However, they waste a lot of effort due to a lack of specifically defined desired outcomes. The success of a project and the effectiveness of a team is often set before a project even begins. Setting SMART goals upfront will give your team the clarity they need. This will allow them to achieve your desired outcomes. It will also help them accomplish them as efficiently and effectively as possible.
What is a SMART Goal?
SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, accurate, realistic, and time-sensitive. A real SMART goal will incorporate these criteria and will focus the work of your team.
Specific – Ask yourself, is this goal well defined? Is it ambiguous, or is it straight forward? Most SMART goals will be able to answer the who, what, why, and when of the goal.
Measurable – Is there clear criteria to determine the progress towards this goal? Is there a clear metric that can measure whether or not this goal has been reached?
Achievable – Is this goal attainable, or are you setting yourself and your team up for failure? There is a difference between stretch goals that may be difficult and unattainable goals that would be impossible.
Realistic – Is this goal within reach of you and your team? It may be an achievable goal but, is there a realistic chance of your team accomplishing the goal? Be sure to take into account your time, resources, and past performance,
Timely - Is there a definite timeline, including a starting date and a completion date? It is impossible to measure progress toward a goal if there is no expectation of when it should be reached.
Making SMART Goals Count
SMART goals are an essential part of leading your team to a higher level of performance. However, be sure to think through the entire process. Otherwise, these goals can end up as another worthless piece of paper in your files. It is crucial to create these specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely goals. But, you also need your team to know, understand, and support them.
Start with the Team
One of the best ways to get your team to support your SMART goals is to involve them in creating these targets. Understandably, there may be situations where this isn’t practical. However, most of the time, your team’s involvement in the creation of the goals will improve their quality. This will also ensure that everyone is on board from the start.
Make a Plan and Track It
Once you have set SMART goals and communicated them to your team, you can’t just assume that everyone will get to work on achieving them. You need an action plan. How you develop that plan will depend on the tools that you already use to chart progress. You can use a GANTT chart, project management software, or any other system. Just remember, your goals need to be translated into smaller benchmarks and milestones. Creating these goals adds a new level of clarity. Be sure to follow up with the necessary steps to get there.
There are many approaches to project management. Just be sure to track the benchmarks and milestones along the way. These steps and progress should be available to all members of the team. This way, everyone can see their own progress and the progress of the rest of the group. That way, it becomes easier for team members to collaborate and spot possible issues that may keep them from achieving the next steps.
Follow Up and Celebrate
The use of SMART goals in an organization won’t last long without proper follow up and recognition. Too often, when goals are achieved, the result is simply more goals. When a team achieves its goals, it is essential to pause and recognize the achievement. It can be a celebratory event or just a meeting to acknowledge what has been accomplished. Taking the time for this sort of recognition will help set the stage for whatever is next.
In addition, it is crucial to take the time to learn from the process. Teams always learn lessons when working to achieve SMART goals. By spending some time debriefing the process, the team can learn from their success and failures. This will help them to do a better job setting and achieving SMART goals in the future.