Setting goals is a vital part of running any size organisation but there’s clearly a difference between setting goals and setting S.M.A.R.T goals. This form of goal setting will help you and your direct reports make the most of your time at work.
When you plan out and add structure to your goals, you make them far easier to achieve because you give yourself a step by step plan as well as a greater meaning in the end result. This also enables you to keep track of your progress and a record of your achievements.
Research by Locke (1996) found that specific and difficult goals lead to higher performance. Greater commitment comes from believing that the goal is important and attainable. When you want to achieve a certain objective you could just start working your way towards it, or you could plan out your path so you know where you’re heading and the effort required to get there.
The age old saying still rings true today, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”
Goal setting helps you decide how you want to focus your resources and spend your time. It allows you concentrate on what is most important on a daily, weekly, and annual basis. It provides a unified direction for your team and allows you to prioritise critical tasks. The setting and accomplishment of goals will also boost team members’ overall job satisfaction.
You are surrounded by potential goals every day. You probably think about how your department could operate more efficiently, what new tasks to take on, and how your direct reports could work more effectively as a team. Each one of these areas can generate goals for you to work towards. Your challenge is to sort through all of the potential goals you could pursue and identify those that will create the most value for your team and the organisation.
As you develop your list of potential goals, it’s important to prioritise. Ask yourself which goals:
• Will have the greatest impact on performance and profitability
• Does your organisation value the most?
• Do you find most interesting or challenging?
The secret to effective goal setting is to ensure that the overall objective is pitched at a level that will stretch you and be interesting and different, without being impossible to achieve.
As you set both department and individual goals, write them down. Doing so can help you more clearly define what you hope to accomplish. Use the following SMART criteria to draft clear goals:
• Specific. You can describe the details.
• Measurable. You can measure the goal using either quantitative or qualitative assessments.
• Achievable. You can achieve the goal.
• Realistic. The goal is realistic given existing constraints, such as time and resources.
• Time-limited. You must achieve the goal within a specified time frame.
If you are helping team members set goals, they are most likely to achieve their goals if the following conditions are in place:
• Each individual agrees with you on his or her specific goals and the output required.
• Ensure team members have the necessary authority, resources, skills and knowledge.
• The team member understands how their goal ties in with the overall team goals.
• Establish clear milestones and agree when to give feedback.
• You recognise and celebrate accordingly when direct reports achieve their goals.
When you have an objective, without a clear plan to follow to meet that objective you leave yourself wide open to procrastination, deviation and a higher risk of stress. Setting goals helps you to retain control over the process, making it easier, more manageable and even enjoyable because at the end your achievements are tangible.
So next time you’re planning your goals, make sure you use the S.M.A.R.T way.