The first known use of SMART goals is often attributed to George T. Doran, who introduced the term in a 1981 issue of Management Review. It has since become the foundation for goal setting for everything from strategic planning to client services. We use SMART goals regularly when setting goals with our clients. It gives us a concrete way to monitor, follow up, and adjust client goals as the client moves forward in the job placement process. We also know when to celebrate when a goal has been met or progress has been made.
Let’s break down what SMART stands for. There is some variation in what each letter in the mnemonic represents, but most are similar in definition.
S = Specific. The goal should identify a specific area for improvement or action. This is the what, why, who, where or which of the goal.
M = Measurable. In order to monitor progress toward attaining a goal, there needs to be a concrete way for measuring progress. This part of the goal typically answers how much, how many, or the how the client (or you) knows the goal is accomplished. All indicators should be quantifiable vs. just general in nature.
A = Attainable (or Achievable). If a goal isn’t realistic, it is unlikely that it will be achieved. While the goal may “stretch” a client, it also shouldn’t be below what the client is capable of achieving. This is why it’s important to have your client involved in the goal setting process so the client can identify what’s most important for him or her.
R = Relevant. Each goal set should be one that matters to the client. If it’s not tied back to something that is important to the client, the likelihood it will get accomplished is not high. Relevant goals answer yes to the question of, “Does it seem worthwhile to my situation?”
T = Time-bound (or Timely). A goal should have a specific time-frame or target date for accomplishment. Goals that are open-ended often don’t push a client because it’s very easy to put off tasks to “tomorrow.” We all know how that goes! A time-bound goal will help establish a sense of urgency to complete it. This part of the goal deals with the when it will happen.
Let’s look at an example:
Mrs. Smith will obtain her GED.
SMART Goal example:
Mrs. Smith will obtain her GED by attending GED prep classes at Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) 2x/week on Tuesday/Thursday from 8:30am to 12:00pm between February 1st and June 5, 2014, with the GED test being administered on the last day of class..
Can you see the difference? The SMART goal allows Mrs. Smith a clear plan to follow and her case manager now has specific times she can follow up with Mrs. Smith. A win-win for both parties!
My Request to You:
1. When setting goals with your clients, begin using the SMART goal format. If you are a Ticket to Work Employment Network, writing SMART employment goals is actually required for the program!
2. Revisit some of the goals you’ve set with clients recently to ensure they are SMART.
3. Set a SMART goal for yourself! Think of something (personal or professional) you’d like to accomplish in the next 30 days. Now, get out there and take some action!