“A goal well-set is half achieved.” – Abraham Lincoln
To plan and carry out a project with success, it’s important to clearly define its objectives in advance. There are several ways of defining your objectives. One of the most effective is the SMART method. In this post we are going to show you how defining objectives can be beneficial for your business, what the SMART method consists of, and finally some examples of goals established using the SMART method.
Why is it important to have clearly defined objectives before launching a project?
Defining your objectives before launching a project may sound like common sense, we tend to do it automatically. However, simply setting a target isn’t enough, it has to be a clearly defined objective in order to be effective. In practice, having a defined goal enables you to maintain a clear vision all throughout the project. It also clearly declares the direction in which you want to take the company and motivates the team. It can help you analyze the results obtained in light of the objective you wanted to achieve.
Finally, defining an objective from the beginning of a project saves time overall as you won’t find yourself questioning the object of your project or the direction you need to take at a later date. In short, defining your objective correctly largely determines the success or failure of a project.
There are numerous advantages to defining your project management objectives, however in order to benefit from them they must be simple and precise. There are several methods for defining your objectives, one of the most popular is the SMART methodology.
What is a SMART Objective?
S.M.A.R.T. is in fact an easy to remember acronym which stops you from forgetting any of the criteria for defining project management objectives:
Specific (Simple, Sensible, Significant): The objective must be specific, meaning clear, simple, precise and adapted to the situation. You must define the project’s objective as specifically as possible. It also needs to be laid out in a clear and simple way to be understood by all of the project’s participants. If you are finding it difficult to define specific objectives, perhaps you should consider devising several small objectives instead.
Measurable (Meaningful, Motivating): Your objective must also be measurable. In fact, you must ensure you have the tools needed for analyzing your results. The measure of reaching the objective can be presented in the form of a value or threshold to reach, tools or assessment indicators. These indicators will also allow you to monitor the progress of the project, which will help with keeping the teams motivated all throughout the project.
Achievable (Agreed, Attainable): The letter ‘A’ of the SMART method is sometimes associated with other words like ambitious or adequate. In any case, this means being ambitious enough to challenge and motivate the team. However it must also remain feasible to avoid getting discouraged along the way.
Realistic (Reasonable, Relevant, Resourced, Results-Based): The objective must be realistic, meaning it must be reasonable for the team or person initiating the project. This avoids abandoned projects. You can determine what you think is relevant based on your previous experience with similar projects. For example, if your sales increase by 5% per year, it is not a results-based objective to establish a project for 80% increases for the following year with the same means. The objective must remain realistic, but at the same time be ambitious enough to challenge yourself and your team.
Time Bound (Time-Based, Time Limited, Time/Cost Limited, Timely, Time-Sensitive): You need to set yourself a time limit, a period within which you must have carried out your objective. If you don’t set yourself a time limit, you will be less motivated, and your project then risks dragging on, or even being abandoned altogether. You can even, if you desire, establish interim milestones throughout the project.
First appearing at the beginning of the eighties, people sometimes use updated or modified versions of the acronym, such as SMARTER for example, including Evaluated and Reviewed.
In sum, the SMART method of defining objectives prevents you from missing out any important aspects. It is a comprehensive method which allows you to get the project started off on the right foot. Additionally, it avoids realizing midway through the process that the project isn’t specific, achievable or measurable enough. Finally, it helps keep everyone motivated all throughout the project, helping with team building.
Example of a SMART objective: I wish to increase sales of clothing from the winter collection (simple), between now and the end of the season on the 20th of March 2018 (time bound) by 5% (measurable and acceptable) in comparison with last year (realistic).
Example of a SMART objective: My objective is that by the end of this year, I will have obtained new customers (simple). I want 15 more (measurable, attainable and realistic) than last year (time- based).
And that’s it, all you need to know about the SMART method, defining objectives effectively, and getting your projects off to the right start. Here at Kiwili we can help with all aspects of project management and accounting, with our all-in-one online project management software. Find out about all Kiwili can offer in our latest post.
Now you’ve covered the SMART method, you might also be interested in our article all about project management and our tips for team leaders on effective team management.