First outlined by Peter Drucker in his 1954 book The Practice of Management, the system of SMART objectives is probably the most well-known method for writing objectives. There have been a number of variations, but the original is still the easiest and most useful.
- A precise outcome which describes what success will look like.
- Link your measurement of the goals to a number, share, rate, percentage, or frequency.
- A defined and objective demonstration of what has to be achieved.
- Measure the behaviour or outcome in a way that enables you to identify not just completion, but key milestones or progress if necessary.
- Realistic, given all available resources.
- Be careful of being too aggressive with your objectives; if they’re unrealistic, you and your team will be left feeling demoralised, discouraged or incompetent
- Directly applicable to the overall business goals of the organisation, as well as the overall objectives of communications.
- Show linkages to internal business objectives.
- Involve management to engage buy-in from the beginning
- Expectations for when the objective should be reached, both in terms of the start and its finish.
- Highlight any short-term accomplishments or milestones.
- Link the final outcome to the business objectives.
Here are two examples.
First, a client gave our team this statement as a business objective.
Generate media coverage for Michael Smith (the newly appointed president and CEO of Aries Fund Management)
When we asked what the business purpose was of generating media for the new CEO, we eventually created a proper business objective.
Raise the share price of Aries Fund Management by 13% during this fiscal year
A healthcare client in the U.S. outlined this objective.
Launch Osmosis, a new cardiovascular drug to general practitioners, cardiologists and sufferers of cardiovascular disease
As we began talking about how a campaign might be organised, the CEO walked in, saw our objective written on a whiteboard, and disagreed with our goal because if cardiologists didn’t understand the drug’s efficacy, a fancy launch party wasn’t going to help. He changes the goal to:
Convert X% of cardiologists to prescribe Osmosis over its two competitors within # months of its launch
Some final thoughts:
- It’s better to write your objective two or three different ways – not just edit the same sentence over and over. This way, you can compare and contrast to select the best parts of each into the preferred final option.
- If possible, make your objectives as descriptive as possible. Descriptive objectives help engage imagination, especially in brainstorming.
- Consider the end user when you write the objective.
- Write programs with fewer objectives than more. One or two objectives are plenty if they’re written correctly. Remember, simple plans simply work better. Or if that doesn’t sell you, no one buys complexity.
How have you used SMART objectives in the past? Any thoughts on the variations to SMART? Please add your comments below.