Leadership & Formation #11 – SMART Goals

Leadership & Formation #11 – SMART Goals

Goals.jpgThe only time you are guaranteed a 100% success rate is when you aim at nothing – you are destined to reach it; nothing. Effective and efficient planning and implementation of key objectives be they annual, trimester or quarterly will help ensure that a leader makes meaningful progress and reaches their outcomes

In strategic or tactical planning we brainstorm a preferable future by seriously considering the implications of the following questions…

  • What are we doing now we need to KEEP doing, but do better?
  • What are we doing now we need to CHANGE doing if we are to succeed?
  • What are we doing now we need to STOP doing?
  • What are we not doing now we need to START doing?

Answering these thought provoking questions will help a leader and their team look at new possibilities, options, and alternative solutions to a specific problem, a new initiative, or a prescribed objective.

Generally, once an environmental analysis (external and Internal) is completed in a strategic planning exercise, VISION is formed about a new or better future as an organization.  This ‘vision’ is informed, conditioned, and established by agreed upon ASSUMPTIONS, BELIEFS, and operating VALUES.  OBJECTIVES are formulated and applicable STRATEGIES are identified to reach those objectives.  Each objective might include one or more strategies for reaching an objective.

The proverbial rubber meets the road in the implementation.  This is the “action” or “doing” steps for all areas that are used to support the overall strategy.  This phase addresses organizational relationships, lines of authority, reporting relationships and communication requirements necessary to effectively implement the strategic plan in general and the operational plans specifically.  This phase deals with the support mechanisms that need to be in place to provide adequate direction and resources for accomplishing the plans. 

An implementation plan may include the following elements for each strategy:  SMART goals, qualifying conditions, communications required, time lines (schedule), personnel needs, training plans, materials and resources, budget, and facility needs.

One of the most effective management tools used to plan and implement key objectives and strategies is the use of SMART goals, the focus of our discussion today.

Setting Goals

Establishing performance goals helps a leader, manager, supervisor, or project team move in a straight line toward accomplishing long-term objectives via key strategies. Team members need to have a part in determining the goals but in the final analysis they are the leader’s goals.

As I told you when I began these posts I would be operating from a Biblical worldview.  Even though the principles I discuss have application regardless of your faith persuasion. From a scriptural perspective, then, planning using SMART goals ‘redeems’ the time (Ephesians 5:15, 16; Colossians 4:50), helps us be stewards of God’s precious resources, and to focus our efforts according to His plan (Psalm 20:4; 33:11; Isaiah 32:8; Jeremiah 29:11).

Regardless of your context, one of the most effective management tools used to plan and implement key objectives and strategies is the use and application of SMART goals.  Goals are simply a means to that end. Goals are the steps, tactics, programs, recipes, tasks, course, or operations we intend to use to make and mark progress.

SMART Goal Guidelines

They are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented and Time constrained. Thus, they are called SMART goals.  Before examples of SMART goals are presented let’s look more closely at what makes a good goal.

Is the goal SPECIFIC?  Most goals fail initially because they are not specific enough.  Is the goal clear enough that a team can ‘see’ it?  Or is it so open ended you’ll never know if you attained it at all? 

Is the goal MEASUREABLE?  Measurement can be either quantitative or qualitative.   Quantitative goals can be numerical or based on percentage of completion.  Qualitative goals may include the presence of observable but non-quantifiable traits.

Is the goal ATTAINABLE?  Overzealous, unrealistic goals outlined may not be attainable.  The onus for attainability rests with those who are tasked with attaining the goal.  Attainability is based on whether the expertise, experience, talent, competence of the team and the resources available to the team.

Is the goal RESULTS-ORIENTED?  What is the ‘purpose’ of the goal?  What is the stated ‘end’ that is to be attained?   How will you know if the goal is reached and that it indeed contributes to the objective sought?  What is the ‘aim’ of the goal?

Is the goal TIME-CONSTRAINED?  What is the time period selected to attain the goal?  My experience suggests that a goal should not be any longer than 4 months.  Three month (quarterly) goals are preferred.  If a goal is longer than that timeframe it should be divided into smaller time increments.

Each strategy should have SMART goals associated with its implementation.

Objectives can be annual and represent key results expected.  To reach the objective one or more strategies (processes, methods, systems, techniques, procedures, etc.) may be implemented.  Each strategy may have one or more SMART goals associated with it.

For instance, to reach a particular Objective three Strategies will be implemented.  Each strategy will include two or more SMART goals designed to employ the strategy.

Although SMART goals can be written to encompass any time frame they usually cover three to four months.  These goals may also be written in terms of steps necessary to fully implement he strategy.

SMART goals can be represented by a time frame (i.e., week, month, quarter, trimester) or a succession of events built on one another leading to completion of the strategy.  Most SMART goals use a designated time frame even if it takes three or more goals to complete the task.  The task is broken up into defined increments of time.

With regard to a succession of events SMART goals may be written as follows.  Let’s assume you were given the strategy to provide qualified individual contributors to a program manager who is responsible for the design and manufacture of a system.  One Smart goal might be to evaluate your personnel resources.  A follow-on goal might be to provide training in the competencies needed by the program.  A third goal might be to implement a probationary period concluding with an evaluation of their effectiveness by the program manager.

As a leader, manager, or supervisor your job is to maintain the integrity of the SMART goal framework, not necessarily the specifics on how the details of the goal are determined- that should be the responsibility of the project team members if possible.

More simply stated, as leader, manager, or supervisor your responsibility is primarily to ensure the framework of the SMART goal is adhered to – specific, measureable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-constrained.

Is the goal specific enough?

Is the goal quantifiably or qualitatively measureable?

Is the goal attainable in terms of the capabilities and capacity of the team?

Is the goal results-oriented in that it adequately points to a recognizable outcome?  In other words, what is its stated purpose?

Is the goal time-constrained in that it progressively leads to the desired outcome whether it is laid out in time increments or progressive steps?


The examples that follow address a ministry context.  The reader will hopefully readily see how they can be adjusted for a non-ministry context if that is your operational setting.

Form a ministry team (specific) to help children process the trauma of their parents divorce (results-oriented) by the end of February 2015 (time-constrained) as evidenced by the selection of curriculum and the scheduling of course dates (measurable/non-quantifiable).

Increase the number of small groups (specific) by 25% (measurable/quantifiable) beginning in March 2015 (time-constrained) for the purpose of reaching those members and regular attenders who have not been involved in small groups and who need intimate fellowship and care (results-oriented).

Form a mentoring ministry for women (specific) to assist them in becoming followers of Jesus Christ by establishing a relationship with another woman who will help them grow spiritually (results-oriented) as evidenced by their commitment to Bible study, prayer, fellowship and witnessing (measurable/non-quantifiable). Training will be conducted in January 2016 for mentors and the program launched in March 2016 (time constrained).

Key Action Words for Goals: Assess, Plan, Design, Develop, Recruit, Fund, Train, Schedule, Promote, Establish, Produce, Communicate, Conduct, Review, Evaluate, Assess, Assign, Critique, select, etc.

SMART Goals can be developed for personal as well as professional purposes.  Wherever I have led others I have used SMART goals with success.  I hope this posting will help you become a more effective and efficient leader, manager, or supervisor.

To be continued…


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