SMART goals
5-second summary
  • Teams often fall short of meeting their goals due to a lack of consensus on the definition of success.
  • SMART goals use a specific set of criteria to help ensure that objectives are clearly defined and attainable within a certain timeframe.
  • Working through each step of creating a SMART goal can reveal instances where priorities and resources are out of alignment.

Meet Jane. She’s a product manager at a mid-sized tech company – let’s call it Techfirm, Inc. Jane has been tasked with increasing usage of Techfirm’s mobile app.

She knows she’ll need all hands on deck to make this happen, but there’s a problem. When Jane has set team-wide goals in the past, they’ve quickly fallen off track. Nobody seemed to have a clear understanding of what success should look like. Progress wasn’t monitored closely enough. And inevitably, that important objective slipped to the back burner (before toppling off the stove entirely).

That’s why, this time around, Jane plans to leverage SMART goals for setting an action plan and staying the course.

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What are SMART goals?

The SMART in SMART goals stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Defining these parameters as they pertain to your goal helps ensure that your objectives are attainable within a certain time frame. This approach eliminates generalities and guesswork, sets a clear timeline, and makes it easier to track progress and identify missed milestones.

An example of a SMART-goal statement might look like this: Our goal is to [quantifiable objective] by [timeframe or deadline]. [Key players or teams] will accomplish this goal by [what steps you’ll take to achieve the goal]. Accomplishing this goal will [result or benefit].

How to write SMART goals

Let’s use Jane’s objective to work through each component.

S: Specific

In order for a goal to be effective, it needs to be specific. A specific goal answers questions like:

  • What needs to be accomplished?
  • Who’s responsible for it?
  • What steps need to be taken to achieve it?

Thinking through these questions helps get to the heart of what you’re aiming for. Here’s an example of a specific goal Jane might come up with:

SPECIFIC

Grow the number of monthly users of Techfirm’s mobile app by optimizing our app-store listing and creating targeted social media campaigns.

M: Measurable

Specificity is a solid start, but quantifying your goals (that is, making sure they’re measurable) makes it easier to track progress and know when you’ve reached the finish line.

Jane and her product team want to grow the number of their mobile app users – but by how much? If they get even one new signup, that’s technically positive growth – so does that mean they’re done? Same goes for their strategy; how many platforms will they advertise on? 

To make this SMART objective more impactful, Jane should incorporate measurable, trackable benchmarks.

MEASURABLE

Increase the number of monthly users of Techfirm’s mobile app by 1,000 by optimizing our app-store listing and creating targeted social media campaigns for four social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

A: Achievable

This is the point in the process when you give yourself a serious reality check. Goals should be realistic — not pedestals from which you inevitably tumble. Ask yourself: is your objective something your team can reasonably accomplish?

Jane might look at her goal and realize that, given her small team and their heavy workload, creating ad campaigns for four social platforms might be biting off more than they can chew. She decides to scale back to the three social networks where she’s most likely to find new clients.

ACHIEVABLE

Increase the number of monthly users of Techfirm’s mobile app by 1,000 by optimizing our app-store listing and creating targeted social media campaigns for three social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Safeguarding the achievability of your goal is much easier when you’re the one setting it. However, that’s not always the case. When goals are handed down from elsewhere, make sure to communicate any restraints you may be working under. Even if you can’t shift the end goal, at least you can make your position (and any potential roadblocks) known up-front.

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R: Relevant

Here’s where you need to think about the big picture. Why are you setting the goal that you’re setting?

Jane knows that the app is a huge driver of customer loyalty, and that an uptick in their app usage could mean big things for the company’s bottom-line revenue goals. Now she revises her statement to reflect that context.

Relevant

Grow the number of monthly users of Techfirm’s mobile app by 1,000 by optimizing our app-store listing and creating targeted social media campaigns for three social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Because mobile users tend to use our product longer, growing our app usage will ultimately increase profitability.

T: Time-bound

To properly measure success, you and your team need to be on the same page about when a goal has been reached. What’s your time horizon? When will the team start creating and implementing the tasks they’ve identified? When will they finish?

SMART goals should have time-related parameters built in, so everybody knows how to stay on track within a designated time frame.

When Jane incorporates those dates, her SMART goal is complete.

time-bound

Grow the number of monthly users of Techfirm’s mobile app by 1,000 within Q1 of 2022. This will be accomplished by optimizing our app-store listing and creating targeted social media campaigns, which will begin running in February 2022, on three social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Since mobile is our primary point of conversion for paid-customer signups, growing our app usage will ultimately increase sales.

Knowing how to set goals using the SMART framework can help you succeed in setting and attaining goals, no matter how large or small.

Want to make it even easier? Download a SMART goals template from our friends at HubSpot.

How to write SMART goals