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Don't Let SMART Goals Limit Productivity

written by: Marlene Gundlach • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 7/20/2013

Setting SMART goals for your project is a strong first step, but don't let them limit your productivity.

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    Setting Your Goals

    When you are faced with a new project, setting SMART goals is an important first step. The basic premise for writing SMART goals is that they need to be:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Agreed Upon or Achievable
    • Realistic
    • Time Specific

    These goals will set your team on a successful path and provide them with a guideline to follow as they move forward. However, as the project manager, you need to be aware of situations where these SMART goals may actually limit the productivity of your team.

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    Don't Limit Your Goals

    Looking at the acronym that outlines a smart goal, you know it must be specific, measurable, and realistic. All of this may lead your team to keep the goal limited and will not push the limits of your resources. Let's look at a simple measurable like time. If you set your goal to complete phase one of the project in 14 days, that should not mean that you can't shoot for a completion date 10 days out. If you find you are ahead of schedule, should you pull in the reins? Absolutely not.

    The nature of a SMART goal can lead to narrow criteria. When you are starting out on new project, this linear nature may be necessary. At the onset, you may not know exactly what resources will be available and what skill sets your employees will bring to the table. You cannot count on time lost due to illness, malfunctions of equipment, or a change in budget. Therefore, you can sometimes be hesitant to write SMART goals that are innovative and risky. Safe is good, but you need to be willing to be fluid as you move ahead.

    What can you do to be sure your SMART goals do not limit productivity? Do not see them as limitations; look at the goals as a guideline, almost as "the bare minimum". Think outside of the box and always challenge yourself and your team to exceed the expectations set forth by your list of goals. Be willing to change and rewrite the goals as you go along. Let's say you want to increase quality issues by 15 percent. If you meet that 15 percent before the end of the project, who's to say you can't bump that number up to 18 percent and work toward that goal.

    SMART goals are an excellent way to get your team started on a project. They give you direction and focus. Just don't allow them to be limiting; be sure everyone knows that exceeding the expectations set by your goals is an acceptable goal is itself.