Seems like we were just singing praises about SMART goals last time and here I am about to question them. I’m sure you must think I am out of my mind, but I’m not. In fact I am in my right mind and that is the problem. Some folks think that SMART goals only use the left part of the brain and that makes them hard to accomplish. If you remember from my last article the "SMART" in SMART goals is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
Perhaps a quick review of what these words stand for is in order.
S is for Specific: What, Why, Who, Which, Where?
Specific reminds you that a goal has to be defined in order to be achievable. Specific goals are not vague - they state exactly what needs to be accomplished. When goals are specific, they let team members know what's expected. Specific goals answer the "W" questions: what, why, who, where, which and et cetera.
M is for Measurable: Set criteria to measure progress using How Much, How Many?
Measurable goals are just that - measured. Setting criteria to measure progress helps you, and your team, achieve what you want. It lets you reach your goals and experience success. Accomplishment brings an exhilarating feeling that you keep your team excited for the next goal. To set measurable goals, answer the following: How Much? How Many? What does the end look like? How will I know when I have accomplished this goal?
A is for Attainable: Set yourself up for success! Don't make it too hard, but a challenge is always more satisfying than an easy task.
Setting goals that are difficult, yet attainable, are very important. People like to be stretched - but not so much that they feel undue stress. Many people develop new attributes and abilities as they stretch to achieve their goals. Success in achieving a goal builds self-esteem. How can this goal be accomplished? What do I need to accomplish this goal? (List items, people, programs, etc.)
R is for Relevant: Will this goal that you are setting REALLY make a difference?
Goals need to be relevant to the situation at hand. Team members who see the relevancy to themselves and own the goals, are more likely to be successful. A goal must be something that you and your team are both willing and able to work towards. Good questions for relevancy are: Why is this important to me? To my team? To the company? Can this be accomplished?
T is for Timely: A goal without a due date isn't a goal, its wishful thinking. Make a commitment to a deadline.
Commitment to a deadline helps your team focus their efforts, and creates a sense of urgency and importance. It helps in overcoming the interruptions that invariably happen in everyday life. Setting a deadline also encourages you and your team to unconsciously find a way to get the work done.
See I can cover it more quickly the second time around. And I have been able to use SMART goals pretty easily myself, but remember that friend of mine who has no set goals? She just wings it all the time. She is never sure what to do next or what she has accomplished. She characterizes herself as being very right-brained. (I am not going to get into the discussion about what I read lately saying that this dichotomy is hare-brained. Just bear with me. I got two animals in these parentheses.)
My friend is not the only naysayer when it comes to SMART goals. A person who questions using SMART goals is Kirsten at Doodle Lounge.com. She says, “Unfortunately the SMART (goal) principle draws very heavily on the left and factual side of the brain and therefore the SMART principle to goal setting is only half the story. Our creative, ‘think out of the box’ right-hand side of the brain sadly doesn’t get a look in. If you are starting out on your goal setting quest from a perspective of total realism and measurability, you will arguably be unable to see the blue sky of opportunities that may be available to you.”
I think her attitude lines up more with idea of brainstorming that should come before any sort of goal-setting occurs. What do you think? But Kirsten is not the only one questioning SMART goals.
Leadership IQ, a leadership training and research company studied 4,182 employees in 397 organizations to see what sort of goal-setting process actually helped employees achieve great things (high goals) resulting in a white paper, Are Smart Goals Dumb? The outcome is that some of the problems with the SMART goals setting system led to impediments to, not enablers of, bold actions and actually encouraged poor performance. This is the result although the whole point of the SMART goals setting is to help them achieve great things instead of just mediocre ones.
What Leadership IQ found was that there are 8 predictors of whether the business goals would help employees want to achieve the great things. Those top 8 in order of statistical importance are:
- I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my goals.
- I will have to learn new skills to achieve my assigned goals for this year.
- My goals are absolutely necessary to help this company.
- I actively participated in creating my goals for this year.
- I have access to any formal training that I will need to accomplish my goals.
- My goals for this year will push me out of my comfort zone.
- My goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me (clients, the community, etc.).
- My goals are aligned with the organization’s top priorities for this year.
What is missing here?
Where are the SMART goals in this list? To the average employee, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely don’t leap off the paper and touch the hearts and minds of the ones who are supposed to do the goals. Only 15% of employees strongly agree that their goals will help them achieve great things. And only 13% of employees strongly agree that their goals this year will help them maximize their full potential.
Because I am a strong adherent of SMART goals, I have trouble understanding this. However, I realize that there are people who are more “right-brained” than I am (and the tests say I am right-brained) for whom SMART goals are not a useful tool, like my friend. I do wonder why a business couldn't use a right-brained brainstorming session to begin a SMART goal-setting session? What would be the problem with looking at the 8 predictors as a rule of thumb when using the SMART goal setting scheme? The one thing that seems to make a difference is that employees need to be empowered by setting the goals along with their employers.
What do you think? Are you in the right-brained or left-brained camp? SMART Goals or not-so-SMART goals?
I still have another article to add to this series. So keep a finger in this one and the last one as we consider SMART goals in yet another way next time.
Jaco Grobbelaar is the owner of BroadVision Marketing. BroadVision Marketing works with business owners to put in place inbound and outbound marketing strategies that consistently secure new clients. The BroadVision Marketing Training Center is located in Petaluma, CA and primarily serves companies in the San Francisco Bay area.
Jaco can be reached at email@example.com or 707.766.9778 or connect with Jaco on Facebook - www.facebook.com/broadvisionmarketing - and LinkedIn - www.linkedin.com/in/JacoGrobbelaar. He can also be found at Jaco+.