SMART Goal-Setting

Both when defining the change and when adjusting people’s incentives to reflect the change, I am a big fan of SMART goals to eliminate the ambiguity around what good performance looks like:

Specific – is the goal clear and unambiguous?

Measurable – how will we concretely measure progress?

Achievable – do we know how the goal can be accomplished?

Relevant – does this goal matter to our organization?

Time-bound – what is the target date when change is expected / the goal needs to be achieved?

In addition, because you are assessing people, I like to ask the following questions with respect to Measurable Business Objectives (MBOs, aka incentives) before I finalize them:

  1. Can I differentiate between individuals’ performances based on these MBOs? (so I can reduce / eliminate the subjective or the appearance of playing favorites?)
  2. Can an individual personally tell how well she/he is doing in terms of meeting the MBOs?
  3. Is there enough “stretch” in the MBO to give the individual something to shoot for? (The MBO should not be something that they can achieve next week and then relax for the rest of the year)
  4. Is the goal something that will truly help our organization grow in terms of client base and revenue? The reason I ask this is because building 10 demos that don’t help grow the business / that don’t demonstrate what a potential client might want to see may keep someone busy, but it might be better to have 1 stellar demo and the supporting marketing collateral to close at least 1 deal.

Potential SMART Goal for a startup company: I will build three prototypes for the sales team within two months based on the highest priority sales leads, develop the related presentation collateral and travel to client sites to deliver the demos to executives. This will allow our company to grow business and increase revenue.

Potential SMART Goal for a change within an established company: I will attend the new business process training within the next two months, and identify a project on which I will practice the techniques. I will engage a business process mentor within three months to review the materials I produce and provide feedback on how well I am applying what I learned. Within six months I will achieve certification in the new business process technique. This will allow our company to ensure consistency and reliability in how we spend money annually on new product development.


About Michelle Smeby

Michelle Smeby is CEO of wHolistic Change, Inc. with more than 10 years of experience implementing enterprise solutions at Fortune 100 companies. Michelle specializes in helping corporations deliver transformational change.

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