Organizations have been leveraging S.M.A.R.T. goals to improve employee performance and engagement and provide constructive feedback since they were first introduced into the workplace in the 1980s. However, there are a few reasons why S.M.A.R.T. goals fall short in today’s business climate:
- S.M.A.R.T. goals emphasize goal setting, not goal pursuing
- S.M.A.R.T. goals stifle creative thinking
- S.M.A.R.T. goals limit aspiration
While S.M.A.R.T. goals are a major step up from not setting goals and certainly still play a role in the goal setting process, business leaders should consider moving to Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) as the primary goal setting model within their companies.
OKRs Drive Aspiration
Perhaps the most important difference between OKRs and S.M.A.R.T. goals is the link between OKRs and aspirational goal setting. The “A” in S.M.A.R.T, which stands for “attainable,” is often perceived as limiting and prohibitive to real growth. In fact, a study conducted by Leadership IQ revealed only 15 percent of employees believe their current goals will help them achieve great things. This lack of confidence in goals may likely be the result of the limiting nature of S.M.A.R.T. goals, which confine employees to what is considered to be realistic. OKRs, on the other hand, empower employees and businesses to set more ambitious goals and measure the progress they’ve made toward achieving those goals through measurable and time-bound key results.
“Only 15 percent of employees believe their current goals will help them achieve great things.”
An essential quality of OKRs is that they are visible to everyone within an organization, ensuring everyone is aligned and working towards the same objectives. As noted in our e-book, “Getting Started with OKRs,” OKRs help enterprises:
- Create disciplined thinking about goal setting
- Inform everyone about what’s important
- Enable more accurate communication
- Establish indicators for measuring progress
- Focus effort and ensure cross-functional alignment
The transparent nature of OKRs compared to other goal setting models makes these kinds of results possible. Employing goal management technology can ensure employees’ goals are visible throughout an organization.
S.M.A.R.T. Goals Are Still Important
The core aspects of a S.M.A.R.T. goal are still important to setting OKRs, but OKRs help employees and businesses set aspirational goals rather than just attainable once. By removing the “attainable” aspect of the goal, companies leave room for innovation and creativity in the workplace. Business leaders can begin transitioning from S.M.A.R.T. goals to OKRs by analyzing the goals set under their current structure and considering how they can adjust those goals to push boundaries.