New Discovery! SMART Ain’t That Clever

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Goal setting – magical process or outdated nonsense?

I’ve had many conversations about goals and the default process we all plump for is SMART. 

You know the one?

SMART goals were rammed down my military throat for 15 years and didn’t mean a thing to me.  

In fact, we were advised (because our line managers hadn’t prepped us properly) in the run up to our 

annual appraisals to set our SMART goals for the year just gone. So that our reports aligned. 

We did them retrospectively so that everyone looked amazing!!!  

Not the most favourable approach in my honest opinion.

So let’s break it down and see what can be useful from this process.


SPECIFIC – Ok I am down with that, but would like some flexibility. 

MEASURABLE – Ok, sometimes.

I’m a bit on the fence on that one, time and place for me. It can be tricky to clearly define a qualitative outcome. And sometimes it’s ok when it just feels right – when the impact is quality. 

ACHIEVABLE – Ummm, well if I know it was achievable I’d have probably done it already. 

Or, if I know I can do it, what’s the point in doing it again? Surely this is simply BAU.

AGREED gets bounced around and is used more for team goals.

RELEVANT or REALISTIC – Says who? 

Until we strive for possibility, we’ll remain in the land of same and dull. 

Your goals don’t have to be all about the role or the company. Fulfilling personal goals can be an indirect benefit to your work. 

TIME bound – Really? 

I don’t think Possibility keeps a schedule either. So it’s worth having a good blend of short / medium / long term and infinite goals to keep things interesting and dates to work towards. And do give yourself some slack. 

SMART is ok, but I believe it’s important to acknowledge it has its limits. 

It can only be applied to one thing at a time and might be more appropriate in teams or big organisational settings where you are working on a finite project.  

And it’s a good initial viability test but it doesn’t actually help you describe HOW you are going to do it.

If someone is asking or even insisting you create SMART goals, it might be worth asking them why.  

Are they trying to steer their own agenda? 

Keep you thinking small, because when you do hit a SMART goal – is it validating you, or them?  

And how might they fear changing the status quo? 

I’d always assert there is a possibility of a better way – in anything. 

It’s important to keep re-assessing and rethinking if the process still has its uses or is in need of a refresh. 

There are plenty of goal planning tactics out there that allow you to properly break it all down and then join it all back together.

To feel more connected and can be more appropriate for you and your aspirations.

Working with your company goals, not against them. 

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