Articles on: Action Plan Library

Senior Leadership - Setting Ambitious and Realistic SMART Goals

SMART is an acronym for a way to articulate a goal. The principal advantage of SMART objectives is that they are easier to understand and to know when they have been done. The process provides guidance in both setting objectives and by clearly communicating those details to your employees, and any other stakeholders.


Provide leaders with a clear way of communicating a goal with employees and/or stakeholders.

What is SMART?
Each letter in SMART refers to a different criterion for articulating objectives:
Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
Achievable – assess the skills and resources available.
Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given your available resources.
Time-related – specify when the result can be achieved.

How does SMART improve engagement and culture?
There are three main ways that setting ambitious and realistic goals will improve employee engagement:
Clarity: You’ll find that having clarity about what you want to achieve can make all the difference between success and failure. By setting a SMART goal, all stakeholders will understand their role and how it impacts the project and business at large.
Meaning: Employees thrive when they have meaningful work to do. Meaning is felt when tasks are understood to, once complete, have a positive impact on the business.
Camaraderie: This process aligns the right people, resources, and schedules to get work done. Working in a team is very rewarding when it’s clear how each member will contribute.

What are the benefits?
Improve the chances of succeeding in accomplishing a goal
It will fine-tune your strategy
Determine whether the goals are actually attainable
Increase productivity
Improve collaboration

How do you conduct SMART in the workplace?
When it comes to writing S.M.A.R.T. goals, be prepared to ask yourself and other team members a lot of questions. The answers will help fine-tune your strategy, ensuring the goals are something that’s actually attainable. While you should be as realistic as possible, it’s important to approach writing S.M.A.R.T. goals with a positive attitude. After all, this is something that you want to achieve. This doesn’t have to be a daunting experience; in fact, it should be quite illuminating.

Create a Word document based on the tasks outlined in this action plan and present to the team members at the first project meeting.


Initial Goal: Write the goal you have in mind

Specific: This isn’t a detailed list of how you’re going to meet a goal, but it should include an answer to the popular ‘w’ questions: who, what, when, where, which and why.
What do you want to accomplish?
Who needs to be included?
When do you want to do this?
Why is this a goal?

Measurable: What metrics are you going to use to determine if you meet the goal? If it’s a project that’s going to take a few months to complete, then set some milestones by considering specific tasks to accomplish.
How can you measure progress and know if you’ve successfully met your goal?

Achievable: This focuses on how important a goal is to you and what you can do to make it attainable and may require developing new skills and changing attitudes. The goal is meant to inspire motivation, not discouragement.
Do you have the skills required to achieve the goal?
If not, can you obtain them?
What is the motivation for this goal?
Is the amount of effort required on par with what the goal will achieve?

Relevant: Relevance is focusing on something that makes sense with your broader business goals. For example, if the goal is to launch a new product, it should be something that’s in alignment with the overall business objectives. Your team may be able to launch a new consumer product, but if your company is a B2B that is not expanding into the consumer market, then the goal wouldn’t be relevant.
Why am I setting this goal now?
Is it aligned with overall objectives?

Time-Bound: Anyone can set goals, but if it lacks realistic timing, chances are you’re not going to succeed. Providing a target date for milestones and deliverables is imperative. If the goal will take three months to complete, it’s useful to define what should be achieved half-way through the process. Providing time constraints also creates a sense of urgency.
What is the deadline?
What is the milestone?
Is it realistic?

SMART Goal: Review what you have written and craft a new goal statement based on what the answers to the questions above have revealed.

Reference Material:
The Essential Guide to Writing SMART Goals

Updated on: 05/16/2024

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