Thinking “Smart” Develops Objectives

Posted by Kristin Arnold on July 24, 2009

There is not much difference between vision, goals and objectives other than the level of detail.   Vision is an overarching goal, strategic in nature.  It is used to inspire the hearts and minds of team members to see the “big picture” — the most desired final destination.

Theoretically, once you paint the vision, folks can easily figure out what they need to do to get “there.”  Stephen Covey in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, declares that we need to “Begin with the End in Mind.”  If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there!

Goals, on the other hand, can be strategic or tactical in nature.  They can stand alone or link directly to the vision.  Goals are usually more specific and concrete than a vision statement.  But then again, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book, Built to Last, talk about “BHAGs,” Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals.  In my mind BHAGs are akin to vision, so it’s easy to see how the line between vision and goals can be blurred!

When facilitating teams through the goal-setting process, I like to use the “SMART” goal acronym:

S stands for “specific.”  The goal must be specific so that you know where the “end” is and when you are done.

M is “measurable.”  You must be able to measure your results — even if it is simply recognition that you are, in fact, done.   Finished.  No more work to do.

A is for “achievable” or “attainable.”  Sure, it can be big, hairy and audacious, but can you ever conceivably reach that goal?  If not, pare it down.  If too easy, aim a bit higher.

R is for “results-oriented.”  The goal should be focused on “what” you want versus “how” you want to do it.  A great litmus test for this is the noun-verb test:  Are the nouns and adjectives the most important part of the goal statement, or is it the verbs?  Verbs are usually more about process and could be “strategies.”

T is for “time-dimensioned.”  The only difference between a goal and dream is a timeline.  Boldly state when you desire the goal to be accomplished.

Once you have a SMART goal, you can determine the timeline for each “objective” or “strategy.”

Objectives are mini-goals that align with a goal.   They have the same characteristics as a goal, but are always tactical in nature.  Start with the vision, then break it down into a handful of goals to achieve the vision.  Then develop objectives for each goal.

And then follow your plan!

Question:  Have you set SMART goals or do you need to reevaluate your visions, goals and objectives?

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