What is a SMART Goal? Learn the Best Strategy to Boost Team Efficiency

What is a SMART Goal? Learn the Best Strategy to Boost Team Efficiency | Leadership | Emeritus

“Leadership is working with goals and vision, and management is working with objectives,” says Russel Honore, retired US Lieutenant General. And it shows vital goals and a clear vision are key aspects for an organization. Goals provide a sense of direction, motivate us, and help us understand our purpose. However, writing down goals does not suffice. The key to progress is to set SMART goals. The concept of SMART goals was published in 1981 in a paper titled There’s a SMART Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives by George T. Doran. He mentioned that management professionals often fail to create meaningful goals for teams and it hampers progress. If one wants to experience growth, creating SMART goals is the way to go. So let us understand what is a SMART goal and how you can create one.

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What is a SMART Goal?

Were you wondering what is a SMART goal and why we are writing ‘smart’ in all caps? SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals. 

S: Specific

A specific goal is one where you know what you want to accomplish and how you will do that. It also includes when and why you want to work on the goal. Rather than providing an overview, a SMART goal defines the clear objectives you have in mind.

M: Measurable

Writing down a goal does not necessarily keep you motivated. However, a SMART goal has valuable factors or metrics that can help track your growth. You should be able to measure your performance and assess whether you have succeeded or not.

A: Achievable

Another attribute of a SMART goal is that it should be realistic. It means that it should be possible to achieve the goal with sheer determination and hard work. Creating a goal that you cannot achieve serves no purpose. 

R: Relevant

A SMART goal is always relevant. It serves a bigger purpose and helps you move one step closer to your end goal.

T: Time-bound

A SMART goal has to be completed within a particular time limit. Without a deadline, the goal keeps getting pushed to the future and might even remain unfinished business. Therefore, SMART goals are time-bound so that you know when you have attained the goal.

How to Write SMART Goals

howt-to-write-a-letter-of-recommendationUnderstanding what is a SMART goal is easy but writing it down can be tricky. Here is the step-by-step process to write SMART goals according to the University of California.

Step 1: Be Specific

You can start by thinking about a few questions, such as what you need to accomplish. How can you do it? When will you be able to do it? Who else is responsible? 

Step 2: Add Metrics

The next step is to add a few factors that can help you measure your progress. Essentially, these are your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). For instance, you can add the percentage of revenue you want to generate in a specific period. Finally, you can assess your performance by conducting audits or surveys.

Step 3: Add Steps to Achieve the Goal

Now, you must add the resources you need to attain your goals. For example, you can add technical equipment to help achieve the goal.

Step 4: Be Relevant

The SMART goal should be relevant from a personal or professional perspective. You need to add the reason to work on a goal. For example, you can add that you want to learn a new skill to facilitate career growth.

Step 5: Add a Deadline

The whole purpose of writing a SMART goal is to keep you focused and motivated. It can only happen when you add a deadline. If the goal can be accomplished in several months, you can add different milestones for each month.

Examples of SMART Goals

Now, you know the meaning of the SMART goal, but what is a smart goal exactly? The following are a few examples that will help you understand how to write smart goals.


Non-SMART Goals 

I will improve my productivity by working on priority tasks between 8-10 and turning off all distractions during this time. To do this, I will try to make this a habit by working on it daily next week.

I will work on improving my productivity.
Our team shall improve customer quality service by developing a customer service plan before November 2022 and ensuring that all customer service employees undergo skill training.

Our team shall provide high-quality customer service.

I will triple my business sales within the next two months by implementing effective marketing strategies to generate more business revenues.

I will increase business sales.

What are the Key Benefits of setting a SMART Goal?

One of the most significant advantages of SMART goals is that they offer a sense of direction and motivation. You know what you need to do, how to do it, and when. Its significant advantages are:

  1. Efficient Time and Resource Management: SMART goals are well-calculated and predefined. You become aware of the action steps and resources required to achieve the goal. It helps manage things efficiently.
  2. Helps Avoid Procrastination: SMART goals can easily be divided into specific action steps. You learn where and how to start. You can move step-by-step rather than worrying about the result. Hence, SMART goals can help reduce procrastination and get work done.
  3. Provides Satisfaction: Motivation and discipline are the two most crucial personal and professional growth factors. Achieving milestones of your SMART goals offer satisfaction and boosts confidence.

What are Some Disadvantages of Setting a SMART Goal?

While one school of thought believes that SMART goals can help you stay focused and move in the right direction, another school of thought feels that SMART goals are to be applied carefully in situations and that not every pursuit requires SMART goals. Here is why:

  • Narrow Focus: SMART goals restrict attention to only a single goal, and people often fail to look at the bigger picture. SMART goals can limit one’s potential by keeping people in their comfort zone.
  • Success and Failure Metrics: SMART goals can discourage people. It measures success on whether a person can achieve a goal or not. People might consider themselves failures if they cannot accomplish the SMART goal. It does not consider growth and instead focuses on the end goal.
  • Create Unnecessary Pressure: Another disadvantage of SMART goals is that they can put unnecessary pressure on a person or team to achieve predetermined goals. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why are SMART Goals Important?

SMART goals are specific and achievable. They give organizations purpose and boost productivity. When achieved, SMART goals give people a sense of ownership and accomplishment.

2. How Do You Introduce SMART Goals?

Download or create a SMART goal template. Create milestones and simplify these goals. Introduce SMART goals to your team. Mark your accomplishments. Finally, don’t forget to celebrate small milestones.

3. Are SMART Goals Effective?

SMART goals work. In a study on goal-setting strategies and regulations, 76% of participants who set SMART goals and followed a particular strategy achieved their goals.

4. What is the Opposite of a SMART Goal?

The opposite of a smart goal is a dumb goal. DUMB is the acronym for Dream driven, Uplifting, Measurable, and Behavioral-driven goals. Contrary to SMART goals that focus on tangible metrics, DUMB goals focus more on dreams and aspirations.

One of the most successful management strategies is setting SMART goals. These goals bolster organization management. Team leaders must set achievable, time-bound goals to accelerate growth. Emeritus’ online leadership and project management courses can help team leaders and managers succeed.

By Sneha Chugh

Write to us at content@emeritus.org 

About the Author

Managing Editor, Emeritus Blog
Anwesha is our in-house expert on careers, trends impacting the workforce, and what makes content tick. As a journalist and content creator for 10+ years, Anwesha leaves a bit of herself in every story. Her superpower is to take the bare bones and turn it into a winning narrative for brands. Her passion to tell stories of human triumph led her to Emeritus where she continues to weave engaging tales. Anwesha is also a doting dog mom and hopes to make her boisterous canine a pawfluencer.
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