SMART Goal Setting

SMART goals are the cornerstone of your business strategy – they provide the desired destination point for your employees, teams, and the business. SMART goals define your business intentions, help employees stay focused and on track, and motivate teams to work towards new ambitions. This article walks through the SMART goal setting key steps that we socialize with our customers, along with those which we see deployed by the hundreds of companies across the StatusPath network. Click here to learn how to Easily Set and Track SMART Goals using StatusPath.

SMART goal setting

Understand and feel comfortable with the SMART framework
Now that you’ve settled on the SMART goal setting methodology, you must thoroughly understand its principles in order to extract the most value from the goal setting process. Below is a brief explanation of the SMART acronym:

Specific – get granular in your goal setting as that clarity is required for successful tracking and communication to the team.
Measurable – set goals that can be measured through result tracking.
Attainable – be realistic in your goal setting, so the outcomes are both desirable and reasonable given your current resources.
Relevant – focus on goals that meaningfully improve business value, and that reflect your business future.
Time-based – your goals should have start and end dates, allowing you and the team to evaluate performance and recalibrate expectations if needed.

(Note: There are a handful of variations to the acronym above, but this list reflects a best practices approach put forth by many successful companies across all industries and company sizes.)

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Think globally about your business
One of the biggest pitfalls to SMART goal setting is beginning the process with a narrow focus. Businesses have complex organizational structures, varying resources, and different needs across departments. However, taking the time to look holistically across the entire business reveals the major goal “categories” that each employee and team should consider as they set their own SMART goals. Here are four of the most commonly used categories that every business should think about:

Revenue and Profit: Nothing drives enterprise value like revenue and profit. Early-stage growth companies will place a premium on accelerated revenue growth, while all companies aspire for increased profits.

Customers: Think about how you and the team will keep your customers happy and returning, and map your goals to those outcomes.

Community: Employees love working for companies that give back to their communities. According to the National Benchmark Study measuring the Business Value of Corporate Philanthropy, employees who have a favorable view of their company’s philanthropic efforts are five times more likely to stay with their employer.

Culture: Your business should implement goals geared toward a strong work-life balance, team bonding, increased communication, and individual growth opportunities.

Support annual goals with quarterly goals
Goal setting for two time frames greatly improves coordination across the team and business. One commonly used approach is to begin with a set of clear annual goals. These goals then provide an outline for supporting quarterly goals. This SMART goal setting technique helps concentrate forces around a long-term outcome, which is an imperative for success. And the beginning of each quarter calls the annual goals to attention, allowing the team or individual to evaluate current overall performance and to make any necessary adjustments.

Smart goal setting quarterly

Don’t just set goals – talk about them
Take the opportunity to engage your team by communicating your goals. Don’t fall into the trap of setting goals in a Google or Word document and then walking away. Set your goals in a public location, so your team can create a strong connection between their work and the company’s overall goals.

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Further, inject your SMART goals into the fabric of your team communications – this results in a more transparency, focused, and coordinated team. At StatusPath, we’re pioneers of objective and goal-driven status reporting. It’s a process that eliminates the pain and inefficiency of typical employee status reports, while adding long-term business value by placing an emphasis on goals, objectives, and key results.

Consider your resources and current trajectory
The SMART goal setting process does a great job of challenging you to think intelligently about your goals. In coordination with this method, as with all goal setting methods, you will also need to apply consideration to your particular reality in order to set the best goals. For example, if you’re a small business with a limited marketing budget, but a great set of clients, you will want to focus more on client retention than acquisition. If you’re a growing business with a new round of financing, your goals will skew toward top-line revenue growth. Having a practical understanding of your current business condition, and then applying that perspective to your goal setting process, will result in more useful goals.

Set goals by committee when possible
One way to increase buy-in from the team is to involve them in the process of setting goals at the business, team, and employee levels. Simple feedback loops on ideas, or scheduled group brainstorming sessions can be an effective way to involve more people in the SMART goal setting process.

At the individual level, bilateral communication about goals (and their importance to company strategy) between a manager and employee strengthens the employee’s understanding of company vision, while improving engagement and transparency.

Limit the number of goals you set
SMART goal setting is about quality, not quantity. If you set too many goals, you will find yourself and your team overwhelmed. We call this phenomenon the “task trap.” Sure, each goal you set requires the successful completion of many tasks across many people and teams. Just remember that those are tasks, and they are not additional goals. Setting, communicating, and tracking goal progress needs to remain at the highest level – the strategic high-point for your business. Keep the tasks where they belong, and do your best to limit the number of goals you set to between 3 and 5 goals per person, team, and the business.

StatusPath is passionate about creating a modernized goal, objective, and status reporting system that delivers value across your entire company and saves you time. You can start setting SMART goals and tracking their status in just one minute.

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Quick Tips

Apply logic to your goal setting process and focus on what matters most.

Align individual goals with team goal.

Talk about your goals often to engage the team and keep the goals top of mind.

Don’t set too many goals – 3 to 5 goals per person, per team, and for the business will keep the team busy, but not overwhelmed.

Status reports linked to goals and objectives result in more actionable data for your organization.