Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When SMART Goals are DUMB

According to Wikipedia, the first known use of the term “SMART Goals” occurred in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran. There is some discussion over what each letter of the acronym actually stands for, but some commonly accepted terms are:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A= Achievable
R = Realistic
T = Time Bound

By this definition, a goal qualifies as SMART if it meets these 5 criteria. For example: “We will increase our sales for X product by 200 units in the calendar year 2011” qualifies as a SMART goal because it meets the necessary criteria.

While management training has been cut significantly in the last decade or so, most managers are instructed in how to set SMART goals. In fact, SMART goals are often viewed as the panacea for organizations that lack the proper Vision and Mission. “With SMART Goals”, some people say, “everyone knows exactly what is expected of them.”

And, this is true. With goals that meet the criteria identified above, people do have concrete targets to shoot for. And the management axiom is, “what gets measured gets managed” meaning that the SMART goals will get managed by the organization.

But, it would be a mistake to assume that creating SMART goals puts the organization on concrete footing and guarantees success. As with anything else, SMART goals are only as good as the people that create them. And in my career I’ve been given a number of SMART goals that I knew I should never try and achieve.

Because sometimes SMART goals are DUMB.

D = Distorted
U = Unimportant
M = Mediocre
B = Biased

Once, I was working with my sales organization trying to improve our throughput and support to them. Over the course of the year they had seen changes in the market and were revising some of their products and implementation. We were working together to make sure we were both on the same page. This was a big exercise, and I was glad to be a part of it as I’ve longed believed that Sales and Delivery organizations should be working together closely.

In the middle of this exercise I received a package from my boss containing my goals for the upcoming year. These goals were nothing more than my current year’s goals with increased performance, and they were entirely out of sync with what my sales team needed. They DISTORTED the need for speed in delivery; focused on tasks that were UNIMPORTANT to my customers; would have led to MEDIOCRE results; and were based on the BIAS of my boss and what he believed we needed.

I was told to sign and submit them to HR within 24 hours to qualify for the bonus program for the next year.

When creating your goals, think beyond the concept of SMART and make sure that your goals will result in something meaningful to your department and your company. Find out what is really important and create goals that will serve the organization and your customers.

Just because goals are SMART doesn’t mean that they aren’t DUMB as well.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

1 comment:

  1. Amen,

    In order for SMART goals to be smart we also have to apply some intelligence. If you were carrying a $5.0 million book of business last year and just lost a $0.5 million dollar customer it is probably not realistic to say grow your business by 20% over the $5.0 million.

    You may want to grow your business by 20% but in order to do so it is also important not to lose customers. It is hard to fill a leaking bucket.

    Take Good Care