SMART Objectives


Objectives are important for individuals and organisations to achieve goals and improve processes. They give you something to work towards, they focus attention, help to direct energy and effort, and stimulate the need to act. They can be defined in:

  • project management,
  • performance management,
  • business management,
  • quality management,
  • and personal development.

When formulating objectives it’s important to ensure that they meet the SMART criteria.

SMART objectives makes it easier to work towards and achieve your goals. SMART is an acronym, outlining the criteria to use as a guide for  setting objectives.

SMART objectives are:

  • Specific: Well defined, clear, and unambiguous. The greater the specificity, the greater the measurability.
  • Measurable: Determine “how much” change is expected to achieve the goal.  The saying “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” attributed to management thinker Peter Drucker  explains this point adequately.
  • Achievable: Not impossible to achieve. Objectives should be attainable within a given time frame and with the available resources.
  • Realistic: Within reach, and relevant to your goal.
  • Timely: With a clearly defined timeline, including a starting date and a target date. Including a time frame in the objectives helps in planning and evaluating progress.

Formulating SMART Objectives

Now, to better understand this subject we will look at an example in our everyday lives. Let’s say you wanted to lose weight to be able to fit into your grandmother’s wedding gown because you absolutely have to wear that gown when you walk down the aisle 3 months from now, in December 20xx. You decide to engage a personal trainer/dietitian for this mammoth task and they ask you what you want to achieve. Your goal is to fit into your chosen dress and you could say:

‘My objective is to lose weight for my wedding”

Now that’s a good objective, and it does state in truth what you want to achieve but it doesn’t really specify how much weight you want to lose and when you want to lose this weight. Imagine what difference it makes to your personal trainer/dietitian if you said instead:

”I want to lose 15 kg at the end of 3 months, by December 20xx.”

This is a SMART objective and gives a better perspective of how much work needs to be done. There is a better chance of actually reaching the goal.

Let’s say you get into a contract with your personal trainer on agreement  that he will only get paid if the objective is achieved.

With objective No. 1 he has a right to demand payment if, at the end of 3 months you have lost 2 kg because you would have lost ‘some’ weight. However, with Objective No.2 it is explicitly clear when to say that the objective has been achieved, and its possible to track progress along the way.

Let’s see why our Objective No. 2 is SMART:

  • Specific– Lose weight
  • Measurable– Weight to be lost has been defined i.e. 15 kg
  • Achievable/Attainable– By defining how much weight needs to be lost in the timeline its easier to determine if the objective is attainable. 5 kg/Month is probably something that can be done although it will require a lot of work.
  • Realistic – Together with your trainer you can analyse if this is realistic, also given your circumstances and your starting weight e.t.c.
  • Time-bound– 3 months from today/ By end of December 20xx


Examples of SMART objectives

The simple example above should be exercised when setting more complex business and personal objectives. Organisations created in business include  annual objectives, 5 yearly objectives etc. in various areas areas of the business.

Marketing Objectives

  • Increase customer loyalty by 20% by 31 December 20xx  using a customer rewards program
  • Increase customer base by 10% by 30 December 20xx  using a customer referral program

Financial Objectives

  • Increase our profitability by a minimum of $20 000 per year for the next 5 years; to be measured at each financial year end from 20xx – 20xx

Quality Objectives

In Quality Management Systems, Quality objectives are formulated to support the quality policy as statements for improvement against which plans can be made.



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