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Objectives are Little Understood

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but very few managers get objectives right.  And it is not the manager’s fault.


Source: www.chipscholz.com

The fault lies with the old rule that objectives must be SMART as in Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed.

SMART has been around for many years but that does not make it right.  In fact SMART is quite stupid when it comes to setting objectives.

Let’s look at some examples of so-called SMART objectives:

  • Hold monthly team meetings at least ten times this year
  • Keep the working area free from rubbish in 2016
  • Ensure that payroll is on time every month


These three ‘objectives’ look fine.  The trouble with them is that they are not objectives – they are tasks.  Tasks are SMART but tasks do not improve anything. Tasks are just jobs.

If you give each of your team five of these SMART tasks and if every team member achieves them, what will be the result?

The result will be that the team has made no progress in the past year.  Tasks are activities or jobs that have to be done but which do not cause progress to be made.

Instead you need to get your head around the concept of objectives being SMARTI (© Tony Bourke 2016).  The word SMARTI is pronounced like the tube of colourful sweets.  The I in SMARTI stands for Improvement.

Let’s look at some examples of objectives using SMARTI:

  • Become qualified in Health & Safety  by year end
  • Hire a qualified mediator and use him / her to resolve 2 disputes this year
  • Change our payment process from cheques to bank transfers in 2016


Each of these is an objective because there is a definite improvement to the organisation if each is achieved.  It is the improvement that makes all the difference.

If you give each of your team three objectives which are SMARTI, and if each team member only achieves two of their objectives, you will still make significant progress as a team this year.

What about making SMARTI objectives part of your personal brand for 2016? 


Tony Bourke (tonyb@raising-performance.com) is a facilitator and consultant who specialises in management development training, executive coaching and workplace dispute mediation.

He has worked  worldwide in senior management positions in multinational companies such as Conoco (UK), ICL, Wang and Unisys. 

Tony is an IMI associate faculty at IMI and teaches on Front Line Management and Change Management programmes.


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