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October 06, 2006

Create SMART Goals--And Reach Them

By Shannon Lear Martin

As part of our focus on performance measurement, I'd like to demonstrate how employees and managers can learn to write "SMART" goals. When creating a  goal, answer each of the following questions. If the answer to the question is anything other than "yes," the goal needs to be refined (or in some cases, abandoned):

Nvtech_vc0081971. Specific: Does the goal have a single, well-defined result? Compare a sales manager's goal of "Plan meetings for next week" with "Prepare agenda for scheduled sales, management and staff meetings so that all discussion is completed in less than 60 minutes per meeting." I'd even propose a higher goal: "Increase sales revenue by 5 percent" or "Decrease product returns by 2 percent" where the meetings include discussions and training on how to achieve these goals. In truth, planning meetings is not even a goal for this manager—it is an activity required to monitor how well his team and staff are doing toward achieving the goals.

2. Measurable: Can I clearly tell when it has been accomplished? Is there a date by which I will have it accomplished? Next month is definitely measurable but I'd encourage you to go one step further : "Sign 15 new clients by June 30." To keep you on track, create a dashboard of activities that can be measured to help you monitor progress and report results as you go.

3. Attainable. Is there some evidence that I will be able to achieve this objective, even though I may not yet see how? Is this goal simply a hopeful outcome with small probability of success, or something that is truly within my reach? Will it stretch me, get me excited, put me at risk and cause me to think deeper?

4. Realistic. Given the time, resources and support available, is achieving the goal possible? Are there enough suspects in my target market to support conversion to prospects? Is increasing sales by 8 percent realistic given the current product line, competition, economic climate?

5. Tangible. Is there something that will represent a visible result of this goal? Will it forward what I'm up to in my business/life? If there is not a physical manifestation of the outcome, you won't know when you've reached the goal. If you can't see the progress you've made, you are less likely to acknowledge your accomplishments in the process of reaching your goals. Know when you "get there" so you can appreciate what you've done!

Shannon Lear Martin is a performance consultant with TrainUtopia, where she helps clients measure and improve organizational performance in support of their business goals and objectives. She can be reached at smartin@trainutopia.com.

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