What SMART targets

Guide: SMART Targets

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Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is an experienced continuous improvement manager with a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. With more than ten years of experience applying his skills across various industries, Daniel specializes in optimizing processes and improving efficiency. His approach combines practical experience with a deep understanding of business fundamentals to drive meaningful change.

Being effective at setting goals is an important skill, particularly with projects and Lean Six Sigma improvement activities. Think of your project goal as an elevator pitch where you have 30 to 60 seconds to clearly convey all the important details of your project in terms of “What problem are you going to solve”, “how much improvement will there be”, “when will it be done” etc. This is important for getting buy-in and support from stakeholders and importantly, by the project sponsor who will support your project. 

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What are SMART Targets?

Traditional goal-setting methods are usually not good at being specific, measurable, time-bound, etc. That’s where the SMART target approach comes in. SMART is an acronym that covers the five essential characteristics of a well-designed goal or target, which stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

An image of SMART targets

Each of these elements is important, and a good goal should include them. We will explain the relevance of each one below:

Specific

When setting a goal for your project or improvement activity, you should ensure that the goal is Specific and clearly communicates what is expected, why it is important, who will be involved, where it is going to happen, and any constraints.

Example:

  • Vague: “Improve customer service”.
  • Specific: “Decrease customer service response times by 25% in three months”.

Measurable

Making your goal Measurable involves setting specific criteria that can be used to evaluate progress against the goal, such as how much improvement, how many, or some form of measurement to know the project has met the goal

Example:

  • Vague: “Increase customer satisfaction”.
  • Measurable: “Achieve a customer satisfaction rating of 90% in post-service surveys in the next 6 months”.

Achievable

When setting a goal, it should be something that is Achievable when considering the availability of resources, knowledge, and time. If goals are set that are unrealistic, the project is likely to fail. as the goal looks unachievable to the team, they will question, “Why even try?” Stretch goals are fine but need to be realistic as well.

Example: 

  • Unrealistic: “Become the market leader next month”.
  • Achievable: “Increase the business market share by 5% in the next year.”

Relevant

When setting your goal you should ensure it is aligned with broader business objectives and goals. It should contribute to the larger organizational aims, mission, and vision. These can be set as the business’s long-term goals, which will filter down into smaller individual projects.

Example:

  • Irrelevant: “Incorporate a new CRM system” in a company that has just modernized its CRM.
  • Relevant: “Train all customer service representatives on the new CRM system within two months.”

Relevance ensures that your goal will contribute to larger organizational or personal objectives. A relevant goal provides motivation and context, making it clear why the goal is worth pursuing.

Time-Bound

Finally, goals should be Time-Bound with a clearly defined timeline for the project that includes a start date and target date for completion. 

Example:

  • Indefinite: “Learn to speak French.”
  • Time-bound: “Become conversational in French within 12 months.”

Why use SMART Targets?

Clarity: SMART targets are important to setting a clear direction for both individuals and businesses. A good SMART target should bring clarity by specifying what needs to be achieved, therefore eliminating any ambiguity and providing a clear direction to the goal.

Accountability: SMART goals also provide accountability by setting measurable indicators that allow for the tracking of performance and ensuring stakeholders take responsibility for their actions. 

Motivation: They promote motivation by ensuring that the goal is achievable. Setting attainable goals is likely to boost team morale and improve individual commitment.

Relevance: SMART targets make sure the project or activity is relevant to the broader business objectives and ensure that efforts are not scattered rather than concentrated on the business’s mission and vision.

Time-bound: A SMART Targt can crease a sense of urgency, enabling effective prioritization and resource allocation towards the project

How to Write a SMART Target

  • Identify the Goal: Start with a broad idea of what you’d like to accomplish.
  • Be Specific: Narrow down your goal to be as clear as possible.
  • Add Metrics: Identify measurable elements that can be quantified.
  • Assess Feasibility: Ensure the goal is achievable with the resources you have.
  • Ensure Relevance: Align the goal with broader objectives to ensure it’s worthwhile.
  • Set a Deadline: Add a timeframe to foster urgency and facilitate planning.

To help you write your SMART Targets you can download and follow our SMART Target Check List

SMART Targets Check List

Example of SMART Targets

If you are inexperienced at writing project goals or targets it can be difficult to come up with a clear and concise goal. Consider the below as an example you can use as a framework for benchmarking your SMART targets.

Situation: You are a production manager, and you have been tasked with reducing production errors. You need to come up with a project charter to align the stakeholders and project team. After reviewing some data and assessing the resources available, you have come up with the following SMART target:

“Decrease the number of production-related errors by 20% within the next three months by implementing new quality control procedures.”

Let’s break down how this meets the criteria of a SMART target:

  • Specific: reducing the number of production errors.
  • Measurable: By 20%.
  • Achievable: Through new quality control procedures.
  • Relevant: Improves product quality and customer satisfaction.
  • Time-bound: Within the next three months.

Conclusion

In conclusion, SMART goals provide a framework for establishing clear and attainable goals. You can effectively define goals, track progress, and stay motivated by being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Following the guidelines allows you to take meaningful steps toward success in a structured and focused manner.

References

A: A SMART target is a goal-setting framework that helps individuals or organizations create clear and actionable objectives. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

A: Setting SMART targets is important because it provides clarity, focus, and a structured approach to goal-setting. SMART targets ensure that objectives are well-defined, achievable, and aligned with the desired outcomes. They help individuals and organizations track progress and increase the likelihood of success.

A: SMART targets can be applied in personal life by setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals. For example, a person may set a SMART target of losing 10 pounds in three months by exercising for 30 minutes a day and following a healthy diet. This approach increases the chances of achieving the desired outcome.

A: In a professional setting, SMART targets can be used to set performance goals, project objectives, or sales targets. For instance, a sales team might set a SMART target of increasing sales by 20% within the next quarter by implementing a targeted marketing campaign and improving customer relationship management practices.

A: Yes, SMART targets can be adjusted or revised as circumstances change or new information becomes available. Flexibility is important, but any modifications should still adhere to the SMART criteria to ensure the revised target remains clear, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Author

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is a seasoned continuous improvement manager with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. With over 10 years of real-world application experience across diverse sectors, Daniel has a passion for optimizing processes and fostering a culture of efficiency. He's not just a practitioner but also an avid learner, constantly seeking to expand his knowledge. Outside of his professional life, Daniel has a keen Investing, statistics and knowledge-sharing, which led him to create the website learnleansigma.com, a platform dedicated to Lean Six Sigma and process improvement insights.

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