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If someone starts talking about SMART objectives or targets in the staffroom do not fear, they aren’t referring to your creased shirt or the ladder in your tights. Neither is it a secret managerial codeword for something sinister or unnerving (Secret Meeting About Rebecca Tonight!).
SMART is an acronym outlining five key aspects of goal setting, and can be used in any business plan. The system has been around since the 80’s, and is pretty easy to get your head around once you know the lingo.
Basically, start with something you want to achieve, however big or small, and break the objective into five sections.
Here is my 101 guide to get you started…
Specific Your objectives need to be precise. Specify exactly what you want to achieve and make sure it is clear.
Measurable You need to be able to measure the extent of your targets set out. How will you measure the results? What kind of data will you have to analyse and how will you analyse it?
Achievable The objectives you have set out need to be achievable, whether they are short term or long term. Ensure that the goals are attainable by drawing on past experiences, researching other similar projects or discussing with colleagues and experts.
Realistic Based on the resources and time available to you, can you realistically achieve the objectives? You can create a schedule to determine this, factoring in costs, resources and time.
Time When do you want to achieve these objectives by? Once your schedule is drawn up, this should give you a good indication of a manageable target to set.
So, before anything is embarked upon in a business setting, it is a good idea to write out your SMART targets and make sure that everything adds up.
If you’re still not sure how it works, here is a practical example based on my plans for this evening…
Specific I want to bake twenty cupcakes with vanilla flavoured sponge, pink icing and a jellytot on top. I want them to be tasty and kid friendly, and for them to be ready by the time my kids get home from drama club.
Measurable To determine whether I have achieved my objectives, I can count how many cupcakes I have baked, eat one as a taste test and give it a mark out of ten, then hand the other cakes out to friends and family and get a score from them too. I will also check the time to determine how long it took.
Achievable If my oven is broken or I don’t have any flour, this could be difficult. I will thus make a list of ingredients and equipment before I begin. Additionally, I will make a list of everything else on my agenda for the evening. This will determine whether I have the time and resources to bake the cakes.
Realistic My kids will arrive home at 5 after drama club which means I have one hour to prepare and bake my cupcakes before cooking dinner begins. I already have all the ingredients I need so I don’t need to go to the shop, and I have made cupcakes many times before and thus know the method. The plan consequently looks realistic.
Time I want to achieve these objectives by this evening!
So, now you know how to apply SMART objectives to everything, from starting a new business to baking cupcakes. If you are starting a new cupcake business then all the better!
Sophie McGovern writes for Vinehouse, an HR Consultancy firm. She believes in making businesses better through the use of smart targets, and thinks that any business can reach its full potential through the use of smart objectives.