The SMART Framework
How many times have you not achieved something because you got distracted by something else? When I was a kid I tried learning the recorder, but after a couple of weeks I took to the guitar. As an adult, many people don’t achieve what they set out for simply because there are distractions on the journey.
Sometimes the journey is just too darn difficult and other times people don’t know when they should reach the goal or objective. The fact is, achieving anything requires focus! And focus is what SMART objectives are for.
Take for example the case of a usability manager who would like to see an improvement in the time taken and number of steps it takes to place an order on an e-commerce site. The manager might phrase the objective:
Understand the purchase process.
Looking carefully at the above objective and you’ll notice some problems in the phrasing of the objective. The problems that come to mind are:
- S: How will the manager know what to do? The verb understand is not really specific!
- M: How will the manager measure the progress towards achieving this objective? The objective does not have any measurable item.
- A: Is it an achievable objective? If it isn’t, then de-motivation creeps in.
- R: Is it a realistic objective? For example, if the manager does not have the skills or resources, the objective may not be achievable. In the example above, as there is no timeline associated, the objective is vague. Also, the manager may not have the supported resources.
- T: By when should the objective be met? Time-line is critical. Humans work towards goals based on some pressure applied by the time of completion. Hence, objectives should be time-bound.
The objective mentioned above can be rephrased to:
Decrease the number of steps required to complete an order by 30% by the end of this quarter.
Isn’t that better? Now, let’s look at some samples of SMART objectives for managers.
Team management and coaching are key soft skills for managers. These soft skills require SMART objectives. Similarly, hard skills also require SMART objectives. Have a look at the samples of SMART objectives below to get an idea of how they used in various types of management:
Customer Support Management SMART Objectives
- Decrease the time to respond to customer queries by 3 minutes by the end of this quarter.
- Decrease the time to resolve customer issues from 2 hours to 1.5 hours by July 2014.
Note: If the objective stated Decrease the time to resolve customer issues from 2 hours to 0.25 hours by July 2014, alarm bells should ring because the objective would not be realistic.
Event Management SMART Objectives
- Reduce the cost of the SMART conference by 20 percent by benefiting from process improvement and better procurement management.
- Increase the attendance of the SMART conference by 100 guests by speaking to the guests via telephone and writing to them by mail. All communication should happen three weeks before the event.
User Experience/Usability Management SMART Objectives
- By December 2014, reduce the time required to search for a product by 40 percent.
- Increase the usability knowledge in the team by sponsoring team members to take degree courses from Purdue University in 2015.
Project Management SMART Objectives
- Increase the cost efficiency of the project by 20 percent by the third release.
- To sustain the planned versus actual schedule performance index at 1 given a tolerance of +/- 5% in the second release.