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Goal-setting is an important process for any leader or leadership team. You want to set goals that are ambitious, but achievable; structured, but with space for creativity.
The most important part of setting goals, however, is knowing you're setting your team up for success in meeting them. The best way to do that is making sure that your goals are SMART.
Keep reading to learn more about SMART goals and how you can set your own, or visit the section that interests you most:
A SMART goal is defined as meeting all five criteria that make up its name: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Its purpose is to help teams define success and provide a framework to reach that success.
SMART goals help teams define and achieve success by:
Leadership teams in every industry use SMART goals to identify and pursue key business objectives that will lead to fulfilling broader organizational goals. Writing these statements is an important output of the strategic planning process or other business frameworks so that teams can start tackling the work.
You will likely begin with a general idea of the goal you want to achieve. Maybe that’s increasing sales within a certain target segment, improving your average customer service score, or increasing the amount of marketing content you produce.
Regardless of what you’re trying to achieve, you can apply the SMART framework to make your goals more effective. You will do that by taking your general goal and clarifying it with each element of the SMART acronym to make it specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
The first element of a goal that fits the SMART framework is specificity. Don’t just say that you want something to be better. How do you want it to be better? What needs to be done in order for that to happen?
Be as specific as you can at this point. Include other details such as who will need to help make this happen, what they will need to do, and when it should be done. Making your goal measurable and time-bound, the “M” and “T” elements of this exercise, will also help you be more specific.
One of the most important elements of your new goal is measurability. Now that you’ve made your goal specific to what you want to do, you need to be specific about how you will define success.
Your goal should have a quantifiable key performance indicator, or KPI, that you can use to compare performance to in order to determine if the effort was successful. Think of metrics that are applicable to your goal, and decide what level you want them to reach.
Don’t be afraid to be ambitious when you’re setting goals, but be realistic. Even a SMART goal isn’t helpful if it’s beyond your team’s physical ability. Further, if you or your team don’t believe the goal is achievable, you won’t prioritize the work.
Look at past performance for the metric you’re using to define success. Set your goal as an improvement on that performance, but not unreasonably higher. If you’ve never seen more than a 15% increase in sales from month to month, don’t set a 150% increase in one month as your measure of success.
SMART goals should always contribute to the bigger picture. How does each goal you’re setting improve the position of your business in the market and contribute to your organization’s mission statement? You should be able to answer that question easily. If not, it may be time to re-evaluate why you’re setting this goal in the first place.
Hand in hand with specificity, SMART goals should always include a timeline. Goals are less likely to be carried out if they don’t have specific dates by which they are supposed to be reached.
Being specific on timing will not only help you meet goals more effectively, but also make them easier to manage by giving you and your team various benchmarks to stay on track.
How do you apply the SMART goal principles in practice?
Let’s say you are a digital marketing manager and want to increase your brand's social media following. How would you take that objective and make it fit the SMART framework?
First, you will want to be more specific. Determine what you want to do to meet this goal—for example, posting at least three times a week on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter/X—and then who will be responsible for making these posts. You could even be as specific as to define what kind of content you want to post and which audience you hope to reach.
Then, make your goal measurable by setting a specific number that you want your follower count to reach, and make sure it’s achievable considering the growth you have seen in the past and your current follower count.
Make sure it’s relevant by stating how social media contributes to your larger business goals, and decide on a time you want to meet the goal by, such as a quarter or even a year.
Put all of this information into one statement, like:
To support our online sales, the marketing team will create a strategic social content plan that increases our business’s follower count on Facebook, Twitter/X, and Instagram to 15,000 followers on each platform by the end of this year.
That’s your completed SMART goal! Whether you’re working on your own or you’re the leader of a large team, you can follow a similar process to set your own goals.
Once your goals are written, you’ll probably need to do some additional planning before the work begins. Then, you’ll need to execute and measure.
There are several diagram types that can help you with the planning process and make it easier for you to meet your SMART goals.
You can explore our other blog posts to learn more about the wide variety of diagrams you can make with Gliffy. Or, if you’re ready to jump into diagramming now, you can do that by starting your free trial!
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