On the Job

Make sure your plan is SMART

To accomplish goals, we need plans. But not just any kind of plan. We need SMART plans.

SMART is an acronym used to guide the planning process. The term was introduced by George T. Doran in a 1981 issue of Management Review. Over the years, it’s been associated with Peter Drucker’s management by objectives (MBO) concept.  SMART has been used in project management, performance management, and goals setting.

S = Specific refers to the goal, task, or objective trying to be accomplished.

M = Measurable focuses on success and outcomes.

A = Actionable are the smaller individual actions that are necessary to achieve the goal.

R = Responsible attaches a person to each actionable step.

T = Time-bound establishes the deadline dates for each actionable step.

The advantage of an acronym like SMART is the flexibility it brings to the planning process. Once you’ve learned SMART, it can be applied to a variety of situations. For example, it can guide planning conversations.

What’s the goal we’re trying to achieve? (Specific)

How will we know when we’ve achieved success? (Measurable)

What are the individual actions needed to achieve the goal? (Actionable)

Who will be responsible for each action? (Responsible)

What is the deadline for each action? (Time-bound)

SMART can also be used on an organizational, departmental, and individual level. Let’s say the organization is changing their telecommuting policy. A SMART plan can act as way for everyone to know how the change will be implemented. It can document the steps that need to be taken such as getting final approval from legal, drafting communications pieces, and conducting employee meetings. The SMART plan details can be documented in an Excel worksheet and distributed to stakeholders.

Similarly, SMART can serve as meeting documentation. It’s a great way to keep meetings on track. Think of those weekly staff meetings. Using SMART allows everyone to make sure that tasks are being appropriately distributed amongst the group and that deadlines are achievable. It also can be easy to distribute – so no more delays in circulating meeting minutes. Employees can keep the plan tacked to their wall so they are constantly reminded of their responsibilities.

On an individual level, SMART can be used as a development plan. If someone wants to learn a new skill, they can create a SMART plan with the steps they will take along with the resources they will need. Once the plan is completed, the SMART plan can be shared with their manager to ask for support, approvals, and resources. This applies to both personal and professional development goals.

SMART plans do not need to be complex documents. They can be created in spreadsheets or tables. Here’s an example for setting up a social media strategy.

Specific Measurable Actionable Responsible Time-bound
What’s the goal? How will we measure success? List the steps to accomplish the goal. Who will be accountable? When is it due?
Improve my communication skills. Receive an “exceeds expectations” on my next performance review. 1)      Read the book, “Fierce Conversations.”

2)      Attend internal webinar on public speaking skills.

3)      Read the Grammar Girl blog regularly.

1)      Ask manager for budget to purchase book.

2)      Ask manager for 1-hour to attend webinar.

3)      None – will read/listen to blog during commute.

1)      Q4

2)      Webinars are conducted monthly by HR.

3)      Immediately

When it comes to goals, we should be spending our time actually accomplishing the goal (versus creating the plan.) Using the SMART acronym allows individuals and organizations flexibility and simplicity to focus on what matters.

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