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“SMART” is a commonly used mnemonic device that helps you set effective goals.

SMART stands for…

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

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Detailed Explanation of SMART Goals

  • Specific: Goals should be well-defined and unambiguous. The person or group the goal is assigned to should also be specified.
  • Measurable: There has to be a way to evaluate the success of a team in reaching its goal. Good goals tend to designate from “A” to “B”, meaning that the starting point and ending point of a metric are both included.
  • Attainable: It must be possible to reach the goal. This is not just a matter of whether the goal is possible. It is also an assessment of whether it is realistic within current constraints. For example, learning to play guitar or speak another language is attainable for most people, but given time constraints and priorities, they are not realistic goals. Most people simply don’t devote the time to accomplishing those achievements. The same holds true for companies. It might be possible to launch a new product by a given deadline if there was no other demand on the engineering team. That is not, for most organizations, a realistic condition
  • Relevant: This is a particularly important point of review. Some goals sound good at first glance, but may not actually be aligned with the corporate strategy. Even if they are, you may be targeting something that is a low priority, or that doesn’t have the best bang for the buck. Make sure that the time and resources you devote to hitting this goal are well spent.
  • Timely: Goals should not be open-ended. They must have a clearly defined end state.


Variations on SMART Goals

There are a handful of different versions of SMART goals floating around. Some of these differences are…

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  • You may see some slight variations on the words the acronyms represent (i.e. achievable vs. attainable). Make sure that the organization is consistent on the version it uses.

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