Are SMART goals dumb?

Are SMART goals dumb? Well, yes, if you want to do GREAT work. At least that’s the conclusion of a study by the Leaders IQ consultancy, which found that so-called SMART* don’t always correlate with success.

Photo: from Flickr/js3pt

(* Smart goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive. )

According to the research, goals crafted within the parameters of SMART (see above) can be impediments to doing great work. They make us play it too safe; lack the impetus to make us reach for bold challenges and end up encouraging us to to mediocre performance.

The research looked at more than 4,000 workers from nearly 400 organizations and looked at what goal-setting processes lead them to achieving GREAT work. They came up with 8 attributes:

1. I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my goals.
2. I will have to learn new skills to achieve my assigned goals for this year.
3. My goals are absolutely necessary to help this company.

4. I actively participated in creating my goals for this year.

5. I have access to any formal training that I will need to accomplish

my goals.

6. My goals for this year will push me out of my comfort zone.

7. My goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me (customers, the

community, etc.).

8. My goals are aligned with the organization’s top priorities for this year.

Notice no mention of ‘realistic and achievable’; nor of time-sensitive and measurable. Hmmmm.

Not that I’d throw out all those attributes. I think different goals will serve different purposes. But there is an important lesson here: if you are wanting to step it up into doing GREAT things in your work and life, you need to step it up on creating goals that are more than just SMART.  They need to get your heart pumping and have a bigger impact beyond yourself. They must touch and benefit others too.

The researchers coined a new acronym. Instead of SMART – they suggest you go for HARD. This stands for: Heartfelt (will enrich others lives); Animated (I can vision how great it will be when achieved); Required (these goals are necessary and make a difference to others) and Difficult (I must learn new skills and leave my comfort zone).

I know I am in the midst of creating some new programs and am so excited about these. Interestingly, to keep me moving forward, I inadvertently have been thinking about many of these things the research suggests. I’ve been visualizing; thinking about the impact and contribution to others; and learning (always in learning mode) — a whole bunch of stuff to help make this happen.

Hmmm. Maybe me and my goals are smarter than I thought 🙂

How about you? What goals need to be shined up a bit…or a lot!?

To a TGIM work life filled with wonderfully HARD goals that inspire you to success and fulfillment – and make a difference to others as well!

Eileen

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2 Responses to “Are SMART goals dumb?”

  1. Rodney Brim Says:

    Eileen,
    I enjoyed the read. Yes, it looks like the SMART methodology, while logistically solid, doesn’t connect with emotions much, and loses out as a consequence. Did you get a chance to look at their research design? I had some concerns that they were basing the research on survey opinions versus outcome studies.

    I do like the emphasis on emotion, it ties much better into brain research. I wrote up a few more thoughts on that in my blog – http://www.performancesolutionstech.com/most-of-what-youve-read-about-smart-goals-is-wrong/

    Rodney Brim

  2. Eileen Chadnick Says:

    Hi Rodney, thanks for touching base. I think there is room for both kind of goals actually. In performance objectives, for instance, it is important to crisp up the goal statements for purposes of checking in on whether you accomplished it or not. But I do agree that the SMART approach doesn’t cover all kinds of goals. Particuarly, when you are talking about engagement. What is going to put wind in your sails? Sometimes ‘smart’ just won’t cut it. We need to think about MEANINGFUL goals. So this approach gets a bit closer to it. That said, there’s always room for other approaches too:) Thanks for the ref to your post. I will definitely check it out!

    Best,
    Eileen

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