(SMART)²: The missing dimension of SMART goals

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Many organizations use the acronym SMART to define how goals are best defined, where SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. In fact, I myself used SMART goal setting as an employee and as a manager.

Now, as I consultant, I routinely pore through the different governance and management tools used by organizations. SMART goals show up time and time again in action plans and performance management tools.

Yet so many of the organizations I work with report suffering from a lack of accountability, a lack of focus, a lack of drive for results, and a lack of true collaboration. I work with these companies on improving alignment, breaking down silos, and developing crystal clarity around their vision and what’s needed to get closer to it. Those companies that use SMART goal definition refine their objectives using that tool, based on our collaboration.

During the course of one recent mandate I realized that the SMART approach to goal-setting is part of the problem which manifests as a lack of accountability, focus, drive and collaboration. Why? Because SMART goals are almost always developed and monitored unidimensionally.

What do I mean by that? SMART goals are most often developed by individuals in collaboration with their bosses. In some cases, the SMART goals are linked to an initiative from the corporate strategic plan. In the best case, there are several people within one department with one boss who have complementary SMART objectives that are linked to the strategic plan. The boss generally defines these interconnections. My experience over the past 20+ years is that only in the best-case scenario are SMART goals interconnected within a department towards a specific strategic objective, with various departments formally connecting dots between them to achieve corporate objectives.

In most cases, SMART goals are developed and monitored in a vaccuum, for one individual within one department, by that department itself, based on its own mandate, which may or may not advance the company’s strategic direction. Thus, the SMART goals are developed and monitored unidimensionally. Obviously, the organization does not move forward unidimensionally, which causes conflicts for individuals who are rewarded on the achievement of their specific SMART goals.

My a-ha moment during a recent mandate led me to develop the SMART2 model of goal setting. It was intended for the SMART2 definition of strategic initiatives, but can certainly be used for defining specific actions.

I have underlined my additions to the commonly used SMART model in the text below.

S2 = Smart & Shared. Although there is one leader for an initiative, the responsibility for its execution must be shared explicitly between individuals (and not cloaked in anonymity by reference to a department).

M2 = Measurable & Managed. Measuring progress or results along the way must be done in conjunction with active management. This includes coaching and support for the leader of the initiative.

A2 = Achievable & Actionable. The initiative’s cascade through an organization must be actionable throughout. That means explicit acceptance and commitment to action.

R2 = Relevant& Resourced. People, process, tools and funds must be available to support the execution of the goal or initiative. If they are not, they must either be made available, or a workaround must be developed to the missing resource, or the objective must be modified to a level where it can be resourced.

T2 = Timely & Time-bound. I have seen both timely & time-bound used in the definition of the acronym. Timely means that it is existence is pertinent now. Time-bound means that there are milestones for its execution. Both are important.

If you would like to explore how we can collaborate to help your organization achieve crystal clarity of vision, mission & strategy, please reach out at lesley@lesleyantoun.com.

Written by Lesley Antoun

Lesley Antoun creates crystal clear strategies with leaders, with their teams and with their organizations. Her consulting firm has offered advisory services and strategic planning expertise to small privately-held companies, large publicly traded corporations, Crown corporations, Universities and First Nations organizations.

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