#ProductivityMethods

SMART Objectives: How Can they Help You Become a Better Manager?

Think of a Basketball game. A single ball going back and forth between two teams who both are focusing on one goal. The hoop on the other side! 
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The workplace is similar to a court, provided not as exciting. Your team has certain objectives and all of your efforts combine towards achieving them. At least that’s how it should be.

It goes without saying that goals and objectives are something everyone deals with. Whether it’s in the personal or professional sphere, goals provide a sense of direction and progress to everyone. You get a clear idea of what you want to achieve and what your current standing is.

Carefully selecting the right goals can set you up for success and the SMART framework is among the most popular ways to help you with that.

What are SMART objectives and how can they help me?

SMART is an acronym that defines the 5 essential characteristics of any goal or objective. Simply thinking about how you want to be the best at X or how you want to take your X to new heights will never work. Goals have to be clearer than that and give you a sense of direction.

Here are the 5 characteristics that make any goal smart.

  1. Specific: A well-defined statement that doesn’t have any ambiguity for anyone
  2. Measurable: Must have specific criteria to judge progress. If you want to be the best, state how you’ll know that when it happens
  3. Achievable: Nothing is impossible sounds awesome on a T-shirt. Actual life has several constraints and realities. Whatever goal you set must be attainable with the available time and resources
  4. Relevant: SMART objectives work only if the goal you are setting contributes to your wider business aims.
  5. Time-Bound: The goals must come with a timeline. Something open-ended may lead you to procrastinate and that won’t help anyone

From the outlook, you can easily see the role SMART objectives can play in keeping you productive. When you know what you are supposed to achieve and have a clear timeline in mind, you’ll be able to direct all your efforts towards it and sustain it for a long time.

The SMART objectives framework targets your mindset by organizing your efforts and giving you a sense of direction. It sets you and your team up for success from the very first day. Here are some top benefits of using SMART objectives:

  • They enhance your productivity by motivating you and giving you a sense of direction
  • They allow you to challenge yourself and grow
  • They keep you focused on the most important targets
  • They allow you to evaluate your strength and weaknesses for targeted improvements
  • They can serve as an effective decision-making and prioritization tool

The perfect way of setting up SMART goals in your team

The best part about the SMART objectives is their simplicity. It’s a versatile and universal framework that works in any industry and doesn’t need elaborate tools.

Getting started with SMART goals requires you to sit together and brainstorm ideas with the whole team. Most teams today consist of people from different backgrounds and this cross-fertilization of ideas can open doors for new opportunities and allow you to take your productivity to the next level.

Once you have come up with a list of objectives and goals, it’s time to select the best ones that fall under the SMART umbrella. We have already discussed the 5 essential qualities any goal must have to be SMART.

To check your objectives, try to answer the 5 W questions.

  1. Who – Who’s the target of this objective? This is an important question that will determine your team’s effort and focus on a particular goal
  2. What – What do you want the team to achieve? This will give your team a sense of direction. They’ll know what needs to be done and will contribute accordingly
  3. Where – This is not about the location. It has more to do with the particular domain you want the team to target. For instance, your goal can be focused on retaining customers, or attracting new ones, or ensuring no hick-ups in an ongoing process
  4. Why – Why is this objective important for the team? Clearly indicating the importance of an objective has a motivating effect for the team members. If they know the purpose of a specific effort, they are more likely to feel responsible and respond by giving it their best shot
  5. When – What’s the deadline for this objective? SMART objectives are required to be timebound because it creates a sense of urgency. Without any specific deadline looming, your team will find it hard to remain committed and motivated to keep going

Think of these questions like a checklist. If the goal you set satisfies all these questions, then pat yourself on the back. You’ve successfully started using SMART objectives.

The SMART objectives may not always work. Here are 5 reasons why

Just like any other productivity enhancement tool, the SMART objectives framework comes with a few drawbacks as well. Relying too much on it will cause you to lose context. SMART goals focus on specificity, measurability, achievability, relevancy, and urgency.

However, heavily using them in all decision-making processes would cause you to lose several exciting opportunities. Sometimes, it’s not smart to rely on the SMART framework. Here’s why.

1. They are not suitable for dynamic environments

SMART objectives are designed for predictable environments. Specific and time-based goals will never work in uncertain conditions with varying client demands and a continuous shift in the industrial landscape.

In such environments, your priorities may abruptly shift, resulting in a change in timelines, expectations, and the allocated resources. To thrive, your team needs to be adaptable and quick on its feet. This is something that SMART goals can’t keep up with and may cause confusion in the long run.

2. They may have a demotivating effect

Setting up goals and achieving them consistently can be a great motivator. However, the opposite is also true.

No matter how carefully you set your goals, you can’t ensure that you’ll meet 100% of them all the time. Failure to complete a goal can sometimes cause a sense of disappointment for the entire team. This can demotivate everyone involved in the process and affect the progress of the next goals.

3. They can create a lot of pressure on the team

SMART goals create a sense of urgency, which is important for productivity. However, a looming deadline also adds a lot of pressure for the team. Contextual knowledge about the available resources, technology, and other ongoing processes is very important to manage with SMART objectives.

Without that, you might end up with an under-pressure team that might compromise on the quality of work just to meet the pre-determined objective.

4. They limit your potential

It’s also good to know your limits and weaknesses. However, the constraint of keeping goals realistic can act as a deterrent to your creativity. You come up with the most innovative solutions by challenging yourself and going beyond your limits. By inhibiting yourself from the start, you’ll be losing any opportunity to grow and reach your full potential.

5. They narrow down your focus

Relying too much on SMART goals can lead to many problems in your team. Your team will believe that those goals are the only thing that matter and ignore other aspects of the work. Whether it’s a project or operations, nothing exists in a vacuum. Your team needs to juggle multiple things successfully to ensure the overall success of the business. So, you need to be very careful about that.

A few alternatives to SMART objectives you can try

It goes without saying that setting clear and manageable goals is essential for any leader. Teams need a sense of direction and a quantifiable measure of progress. Otherwise, it’ll be like running a marathon with no finish line in sight. It’s hard to stay motivated like that.

The SMART framework is one of the most popular goal-setting techniques out there. But it’s not the only one. You can set effective goals with other techniques that work just as well.

Here are some popular alternatives to SMART goals.

1. PACT

PACT is a goal-setting technique that allows you to focus on long-term goals and ambitions. Rather than having specific criteria for success or failure like SMART, PACT focuses on continuous improvement in small increments to sustain progress and growth.

Similar to SMART objectives, PACT is also an acronym. It stands for:

  1. Purposeful: The goal must target a long-term ambition to be successful. Relevancy is not the only factor to help you care about something. Your team must know why a certain goal is important and how it affects them.
  2. Actionable: The goal needs to be dependent on things that are under your control. For instance, getting 25000 new subscribers in 4 weeks is not an effective PACT goal. You might be churning out the best content but it still might not get the traction you want. On the other hand, posting 25 new blogs in the upcoming month is something you can control.
  3. Continuous: PACT focuses on improvements in iteration. For that, the goal you set must be continuous. The required actions must be simple and adaptable, so you can change your approach according to the situation.
  4. Trackable: Whatever goal you set needs to be trackable. The team needs to know where it’s standing and if that situation demands a change in approach to ensure success.

2. CLEAR

Most goal-setting frameworks including SMART and PACT are originally for personal goals and later modified for teams and organizations. CLEAR goals specifically target organizational teams and enhance their collaboration.

Here’s what the CLEAR framework stands for:

  1. Collaborative: Any goal you set for your team must allow everyone to strive together for success. Siloes can’t survive in the modern industrial environment and teams need to develop a culture of collaboration for the best results.
  2. Limited: Taking too much on your plate will not help anyone. The CLEAR framework recommends focusing on high-impact areas first to get the best results.
  3. Emotional: The goal needs to be aligned with the personal ambitions of all your team members. When everyone has something to gain, they’ll be motivated to perform at their best.
  4. Appreciable: Each goal you set must contribute to the larger scheme of things. The idea is to take baby steps towards your business’ organizational ambitions.
  5. Refinable: The goal you set doesn’t have to be set in stone. Priorities change! The goal you set needs to evolve with time to keep up with the dynamic demands.

3. FAST

The biggest disadvantage of the SMART framework is its rigidity. FAST is a viable alternative for dynamic environments that need flexible and collaborative goals.

Here’s what FAST stands for:

  1. Frequently discussed: Effectively completing goals and objectives requires a consistent approach. Frequently discussing and reiterating the importance of your goals allows everyone to remain focused and strategically involved in the process.
  2. Ambitious: You can’t get anywhere without the desire to improve. Any goals you set need to be ambitious. Constantly challenging yourself will inspire you to get better and come up with innovative solutions to your problems.
  3. Specific: Just like SMART goals, your objective needs to be specific. You’ll find it hard to proceed if your focus is all over the place.
  4. Transparent: Ask any experienced manager, you’ll find that transparency within the team has a direct relationship with productivity. When everyone on the team knows what you are trying to achieve and why, they’ll respond with more commitment and effort to get you there.

Looking for ways to enhance your productivity? We’ve got the perfect solution

Setting and achieving goals is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to enhancing the productivity of your team. From improving the overall collaboration to streamlining the feedback system or managing resources better; there are a lot of things you can do as a leader.

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Final thoughts

Setting up the right goals can facilitate you by giving you direction and setting you up for success. The SMART objectives framework is one of the simplest, yet effective ways of optimizing the way you set goals and objectives for your team. It’s simple, intuitive, scalable, and can create a difference in your team.

If you are looking for ways to improve the way your team handles work, it’s time to think beyond frameworks and methodologies. Productivity enhancement requires a holistic approach that simplifies your processes and gives you more time to focus on the things that actually matter. For this, what you need is a smart and powerful tool.

Kissflow Project is an all-in-one solution designed to facilitate you in optimizing your team processes and improving your productivity. It comes with excellent features like advanced reports, multiple views, pre-made templates, and an easy-to-understand interface. Whether you want to flawlessly execute simple projects or need something to handle the workload of complex projects. Kissflow Project is a perfect solution that can handle it all.