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  • Writer's pictureLacy Starling

#79: SMART Goals

I just went through a quarterly retreat with my Legion team, the first step in rebooting our company vision now that we've passed through a couple of tough years. The day was filled with different exercises to get us all on the same page—creating an accountability chart, working on our scorecard—but the one I always like best is setting goals for the next quarter.

I'm a goal-oriented person. (I think most of us are, deep down.) I like to have a clear idea of what I'm working toward every day, and an idea of where I'll end up when I accomplish it. Goals do that for me: they create an end zone that I can drive toward with my actions. But setting good goals can be difficult, and it takes practice. That's part of what our retreat was about—learning to set better, SMART goals.

The term "SMART Goals" first appeared in 1981 in an issue of Management Review, and the term has shifted a little through usage, but in the original printing, here is the definition:

S - Specific (target a specific area for improvement)

M - Measurable (quantify the goal)

A - Assignable (specify who will do it)

R - Realistic (the goal can actually be achieved)

T- Time-related (the specific time period in which the goal should be achieved)

Most people, when they set goals, make the mistake of making them too "squishy." They say something like "I want to lose weight." Or, in a business setting, "We need to improve profitability." With both of those, how will you (or anyone else) know if you accomplished them? A SMART Goal would be, "To lose five pounds by December 31st." Or, "To raise net profitability one percent by the end of the fiscal year." Those are targets you can stick on the wall and truly know when you've hit them.

I'd encourage you to go through this exercise with your team (and yourself) soon. The sooner you start working to set SMART goals, the better you'll get at it. It takes time, and practice, but once you are good at it, your goal-setting sessions will be much more productive and the odds for success go up exponentially.

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