While I don’t know if I’m “Smarter than a Fifth Grader”, I assumed that I was smarter than a goldfish. But when I read Contrarian Goldfish’s “Smart Goals are Stupid”, I began to wonder. After all, I wrote about the usefulness of SMART objectives. So, let’s investigate:
CG says “you cannot predict the future and you need to be flexible to change course as circumstances change”. I agree but think that’s missing the point. Objectives are destinations, not paths to get there. If there’s too much traffic on a road, you should be free to try a different street. And yes, you should have the flexibility to update your objective as execution influences strategy.
CG says that the best goals are closely tied to very strong feelings and emotions which you can’t measure. I think he’s confusing quantitative and qualitative measures. If you want to know how people feel, ask them. Surveys can measure lots of things.
CG says that “achievable goals will not inspire you, and you will give up because the end result is not motivating enough for you to go the extra mile”. I say that objectives should have multiple stretch targets over time so that 85% attainment at any given point should be rewarded.
CG says “competition is much higher for realistic goals” and that we should stretch for unrealistic ones. We should definitely set stretch targerts (see my comment on Achievable). However, I think the ‘R’ should be Relevant, as in individual objects should support team and organization objectives.
CG says “it is more important that you make progress towards your goal each and every day than to set some arbitrary date for achieving your goal”. Good news. We agree on one.
Regardless of whether they are SMART or something else, be sure that people understand the objectives before your start measuring them.