I know I’m bucking the status quote, but as good as SMART goals can be they have one glaring omission. The SMART goal acronym is credited to Dr. George Doran who published the concept in 1981. I know you can do the math, but think about this, 1981 that’s 36 years ago. The world is a different place in 2020. Regardless, what makes SMART goals dumb has always been the downfall of SMART goals. You see, you cannot do a goal you have to do activities, and that’s where SMART goals come up short.

If you’re unfamiliar with SMART goals the acronym stands for:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable (sometimes attainable)

R – Results Focused

T –Time Bound

There’s an expanded version, SMARTER goals:

E – Ethical

R – Recorded

Let’s Get Specific

Outlined under specific are the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where, and which. (Which is used to identify outside consequences.) The problem is where is how? Here’s an example I found on a SMART goal tutorial. A poorly written sales goal would be to set a goal to sign up more customers, I agree. However, the example of a SMART goal was to set the goal of adding two additional customers per month. That’s not a well-planned goal; it’s a wish. What’s missing is how. For example, in this scenario, it might be to cold call five new prospects per day and set two appointments per week. And then follow up these activities with training and tools to achieve the goal, such as the manager travel with the salesperson to appointments, the manager conduct cold call training once per week, and talk with each salesperson about their activities daily.

Activities are Hard to Find in SMART Goals

Activities are hard to find in SMART goals, and that’s dumb. Sometimes actions can be found under A – attainable or achievable, and occasionally they sneak into specific, but they’re not always there and the importance of planning activities to reach goals isn’t clearly stated in SMART goals.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s not much I disagree with about SMART goals. Every letter in the acronym is important; it’s just that SMART goals miss, or at least downplay,  the most critical ingredient of any goal – an action plan – a set of activities to continue, renew, improve, or discontinue. Regardless of how specific, measurable, attainable, results focused, and time bound a goal is, without activities it’s not much more than a hope. And that’s dumb.

If you’d like to read further take a free look inside my book, You Can’t Talk Shit Done: Adding Actions to Words

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