S.M.A.R.T. goals – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound objectives – have been a part of the corporate landscape since the early 1980s. They’re a better indication of progress than abstract demands like increasing sales. At the same time, S.M.A.R.T. goals have their limitations. They’re a good entry into goal setting, but businesses should go beyond S.M.A.R.T. and seek something greater.
How S.M.A.R.T. goals can improve
Goals that are specific and measurable are excellent, but what about ones that are attainable? This seems like a good idea in theory – after all, it’s nice to ensure employees have the tools to achieve these goals. Still, the word attainable implies a certain limit. It says people shouldn’t strive for more than they can achieve. This, as we all know, is not the path to progress or innovation. Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos put this idea brilliantly in an email to shareholders.
“That’s a useful and rewarding business approach,” he said in the message, referencing the idea of a business relying only on its current strengths. “However, if used exclusively, the company employing it will never be driven to develop fresh skills. Eventually the existing skills will become outmoded.”
“Employees should address two key topics to address when establishing their goals.”
Goal setting that does more
Forbes suggested giving employees two key topics to address when they’re establishing their goals. The first is to determine what skills they’ll need to achieve a particular ambition. The second is to devise ways to develop those skills.
This idea sets the stage perfectly for a different way of setting goals. It gets employees thinking both about what they can do now and what they can achieve in the future. The word attainable becomes aspirational, something just beyond an employee’s current reach but close enough to drive him or her forward. An aspirational goal also reminds people to keep pursuing these ambitions.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are a great start, but not using them wisely limits an employee’s success. It’s time to add progress to the mix and focus on doing more, not just staying the same.