There is No Them

Lessons on leadership from the world of game development

Goals Should be Useful (even if not SMART)

with one comment

Having clear goals and expectations is part of setting any effort up for success. If you can’t articulate what you are out to accomplish how are you supposed to succeed? And yet, the act of creating goals at a team or individual level often gets either overlooked or watered down so much that the benefits of even having goals are hardly felt. To help people in setting good goals a variety of tools are available, but perhaps none is more well-known than SMART. A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results oriented, and Time based (see this Wikipedia article for a summary).

SMART goals can be valid, but too often result in a set of goals that sound good but in fact have little utility. When it comes to goals, one can judge the success or failure of a goal by how much it is used to direct day-to-day behaviour. A goal that gets written and ignored has almost no utility, and therefore of little value, no matter how SMART it is. A goal that gets used every day to help drive effort, even if it does not all of the elements of a SMART goal, has much more utility and is therefore a more successful goal.

A modern work environment bombards employees with many distractions and many competing efforts that each need attention. Telling employees to do everything right now is not helpful. Relying on leadership to make every one of these little decisions for employees is not believable (and even if possible, isn’t good for the organization). Leadership, by providing clear goals, can help employees decide for themselves which efforts to invest in vs those that can wait. Even if these goals are not always SMART, if the have utility they are serving your business.

Consider your current goals, both from your management and those you have provided to your teams. If you find yourself considering your goals at least once a day then you likely have a set of goals that is actually useful for you. But if you find that you can’t recall the last time the ‘official goals’ were thought about then you likely have a set of goals that is not serving your business. Having goals no one uses is like investing in features no one wants; consider having less-SMART goals if thats what it takes to make them useful.


Written by joshuahoward

February 26, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. When Saturday morning chores roll around for my 6-year old I can’t simply say “clean your room.” That doesn’t really mean anything to her. I need to give her specific tasks like “put the library books in the basket” or “dirty clothes go in the laundry hamper.”

    I find that idea could easily be translated to tasks workers are given. If a supervisor wants a specific result then specific tasks have to be articulated.


    February 26, 2010 at 8:05 pm

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