It’s a new year, a time for setting goals, building budgets, making plans, and committing to resolutions. Organizations and individuals alike view the new year as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start anew.

So how do you set effective goals? How long will you stick with it? How will you know if you’re making progress?


Since the early 80’s, organizational theorists and business coaches have been discussing SMART action plans, advising use of the acronym to help guide the goal setting process with a focus on results. There are various labels assigned to the different letters in S.M.A.R.T., but they all generally point in the same direction. I personally lean towards the following definitions*:

S – Specific – Is your goal or action plan specific enough? Can you picture it? Is it defined well enough so you and the entire team will know when your goal is achieved? Too often organizations set amorphous non-specific pie in the sky goals that lack a clear specific definition. Be Specific.

M – Measurable – Is your goal “to be the best” or to “improve by 10%”? Being the best is a admirable goal, but I’m not sure how to measure it, unless it’s by winning a championship or having the most sales; even then I’m not sure that’s “the best”. Increasing your customer wait times by a set amount, that can be measured, that would be a measurable goal.

A – Actionable – What steps can you take, or what process can you use, to make progress on your goal? Define what actions can be taken to work towards the achievement of your goals.

R – Realistic – It seems pretty obvious, but all too often we set personal and professional goals that are way beyond what we can realistically achieve. Set the bar high but not too high.

T – Time-bound – When will it be done? Put a clock on your goal, don’t let it just hang out there in limbo, give it a deadline.

A personal goal might be, “I want to lose weight”. To make it a SMART Goal it might be something like, “by the end of January, I will lose 5 pounds” – it is Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.


There are three more elements we can include in our goal setting to transform our SMART Goals and Action Plans into SMART-ERR goals…

E – Effective – Essentially, an effective goal is the right goal. How often do we ask ourselves if our goals are the right goals? An effective goal is part of an overarching, all-encompassing strategy for long-term organizational success. We should be asking ourselves if our goals ultimately lead to long-term personal and organizational value.

R – Re-calibrate – This element is all about flexibility. If you find that not enough progress is being made, be prepared to adjust to changing conditions. It is easy to get trapped, to find yourself so narrowly focused on seeing trees that you miss the entire forest.

R – Resourced – Let’s make sure we have the required resources to achieve our stated goals. These resources include training, staffing, budgeting, and even emotional commitment. Adequate resources are essential to achieving any goal.

By incorporating these Eight Elements into your planning, resolution setting, and goal development, you can make the year ahead your most effective year ever! Be specific, set a measurement, have action steps, be realistic, set a deadline, evaluate the effectiveness, and commit the resources.






Time Bound




*you can search the web for other definitions of SMART, for example; some use Motivating for “M” or Attainable for “A”.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s