In the world of business and manufacturing it’s common to talk about goal setting.

You may be familiar with the concept of “SMART Goals.”

S-M-A-R-T is an acronym that’s often used to define how goals or objectives should be set.

What Makes a SMART Goal a SMART Goal?

A SMART Goal has 5 attributes. Each attribute is represented by a letter. The meaning of each letter varies, depending on who explains it.

But the original acronym came from a man named George T. Doran. In 1981 he wrote an article for Management Review. It was called, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives.”

Doran says that when setting objectives for management, they should be:

  • Specific – Target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – Quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Achievable – Agreed upon and aligned with organizational goals.
  • Realistic – State what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-bound – Specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Why Are SMART Goals Coming Under Fire?

The SMART acronym seems to be a pretty reasonable way to set objectives. But some people have recently called its usefulness into question.

Mark Murphy writes for Forbes that ‘SMART’ Goals Can Sometimes Be Dumb.

He says that criteria like Specific and Measurable are fine. But goals that are too Achievable and Realistic can prevent you from taking bold action. This encourages mediocre or poor performance.

He advises that goals should instead be HARD. That means they are Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult.

Peter Economy says for Inc. that it’s better to Forget SMART Goals — Try CLEAR Goals Instead.

He argues that SMART Goals haven’t kept up with the faster, more agile environment of today. He prefers Adam Kreek’s model of CLEAR Goals.

He says goals should be Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable and Refinable.

How to Set Goals That Will Get Results

When it comes down to it, you need to choose the acronym that’s best for you. Different companies and different situations require different perspectives.

If you’re working in a software development company, SMART goals may feel stifling. In a more traditional industry like manufacturing they might work well. But if you’re in the marketing department, their usefulness decreases.

George T. Doran’s original SMART acronym is just one version. There are countless others that use the same letters, but modify the meanings. Everyone who writes about SMART Goals has a slightly different take.

There’s no one size fits all. But looking at acronyms like SMART, HARD and CLEAR can be good sources of inspiration for goal setting.

Choose the one that works best for your personality, organization or industry.

Happy goal setting!

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