Published March 30, 2017  in Human Resources Management

Definition – What are SMART Goals and Objectives?

If there is one subject that most people love to talk about, it’s goal setting. Endless podcasts, articles, books, and newsletters are created every year just around the topic of goal setting. People want to understand how to set better goals and then how they can go about achieving those goals. One well-known goal setting process is something called SMART goals and objectives.

People work better when they know what the goal is and why. It is important that people look forward to coming to work in the morning and enjoy working.Elon Musk

SMART goals and objectives are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive. It is a term that first gained popularity in the 1980’s when George Doran published an article about the subject in an issue of Management Review.

This article will take a deeper look into what SMART goals and objectives are and the benefits to using them in the workplace.

What are SMART Goals and Objectives?

Whether it is for business or personal reasons, everyone needs a goal to work towards. Goals give people a sense of purpose and can provide that extra push to keep going when motivation is low. This is because many people will fail in their endeavors if they don’t have an organized plan for how to reach a goal.

And the reality is that 92 percent of people do fail to reach their goals, which can lead to a lot of frustration and disappointment. So what do the eight percent who are successful do differently? There are many different answers to this question but one thing most successful goal-setters do differently is they create goals that are very specific.

SMART goals and objectives provide a clear and objective framework for setting and managing goals. This can help people avoid falling into the trap of setting vague and unclear goals that they don’t understand how to achieve. There is no clear definition of SMART goals and objectives but rather, the term is tied up in these five criteria:

When setting a goal, you should use very specific language to describe your goal. Most people who set very vague and unclear goals don’t end up accomplishing them. For instance, “Get in shape” is a very vague goal whereas, “Lose 10 pounds” is more specific. From there, it is easy to create action steps designed to meet that goal.

Another important aspect of goal setting is developing a system for measuring your progress. Having a goal that is measurable will help your stay on track and will give you the added motivation to push through difficult moments.

It is easy to set goals that are so huge they feel unattainable. Yes, goals should stretch you outside of your comfort zone but you should have a path for achieving them. Most people thrive by making deliberate changes over a long period of time.

Achievable goals should be something that you can reasonably make a reality in your life. Yes, it can be a goal that stretches you tremendously but it is entirely realistic that you can make it happen.

Goals should have some sort of timeline attached to them. Very big goals can be broken down into smaller steps as well.

The Benefits of SMART Goals and Objectives

SMART goals and objectives work well for many people because they provide a clear framework for accomplishing their goals. The mnemonic device is useful and easy to remember and can help you stay on track when times get tough.

Goals are also incredibly helpful for areas like planning, motivation, and seeing results. Here are the five biggest benefits of SMART goals and objectives:

  1. They provide focus and direction

SMART goals and objectives can give your business direction and will guide you and your employees through making daily decisions. For instance, if your goal is to increase revenue and minimize expenses, knowing this will help you avoid making unnecessary purchases.

  1. They help you create a plan

SMART goals and objectives help you create a plan for meeting your objectives. They help you to begin with the end in mind and set smaller, shorter term goals to move you in the right direction.

  1. They can be a tool to motivate your employees

Business goals can be used as a tool to motivate your employees. For instance, if your goal is to increase sales then you can set up employee incentive programs to earn things for reaching certain milestones.

  1. Delivers faster results

When you create SMART goals and objectives, you will accomplish your goals more quickly. This is because you will be wasting less time on unproductive actions and will take a more direct route to accomplishing the goal.

  1. Reduces stress

When we don’t have goals in place to guide our actions it is common to lose focus easily and stop focusing on the most important needs of our business. When our productivity suffers and we don’t feel like we are accomplishing much this can cause a lot of stress and worry.


George Doran came up with the concept of SMART goals and objectives in 1981 because he believed managers needed to outline a plan for achieving their business goals. This is because when goals are clearly defined, people are more motivated to take action toward achieving that goal. By focusing on specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive objectives, everyone improves their chances for success.

Research by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham found that in 90 percent of studies done on goal setting, setting goals that are difficult to achieve leads to higher performance than setting easy goals. Goals can significantly influence performance by giving individuals a sense of purpose, strategy, and organized effort.

Every business should have a system for routinely setting goals to keep their company moving forward. SMART goals and objectives are an effective way to accomplish this. SMART goals can help your business clarity, provide direction, motivate your employees, and provide the action steps necessary for moving forward. They are incredibly useful in a business settings but anyone can utilize SMART goals to help them achieve a goal in their personal life as well.

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