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  • S.M.A.R.T. is a mnemonic used to set objectives in establishing goals for project management, employee performance management or personal development. The terms behind the letters for S.M.A.R.T. Goals are as follows: S= Specific, M= Measurable, A= Attainable, R = Relevant, and T=Time-Frame. Let us define each major term and how it defines the objective of  ‘The Goal’.


    This term stresses the need for a particular goal as opposed to a more general one. This means the goal is clearly defined without vagaries. To make goals very specific, they must tell the team or individual exactly what is expected, why it is important,who is involved, where it is going to happen and which attributes are important. A specific goal will usually answer the five “ W “ questions:

    • What: What do I want to accomplish?
    • Why:  Why am I or we defining this goal?  [The specific reasons or benefits of accomplishing the goal.]
    • Who:  Who is involved?
    • Where:  Identify any specific locations.
    • Which:  Identify all requirements and / or constraints.


    This term stresses the need for concrete criteria for measuring progress toward attaining the goal. The thought behind this is that if a goal can not be measured, it is not possible to know whether a team is making progress toward successful completion.  Measuring progress is supposed to help the team or individual stay on track, reach its target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs it on to reach the ultimate goal. A measurable goal will answer the following questions:

    • How much?
    • How many?
    • How will I know when it is accomplished?


    This term stresses the importance of goals that are realistic and attainable.  While an attainable goal may stretch the team or individual in order to achieve it, the goal is not extreme. That is goals are neither out of reach nor below standard performance as these may be considered meaningless.  When you identify goals that are most important to you, focus on ways to accomplish them. You develop the skills, attitudes, abilities, and financial means to achieve them.  An attainable goal will drive teams or individuals to identify previously overlooked opportunities to bring themselves closer to the achievement of their goals. The attainable goal will answer the questions:

    • How: How can the goal be accomplished?
    • What: What are the steps needed to achieve this goal?


    The relevant term stresses the importance of choosing goals that  are important to the team or individual., A general contractor’s goal “ to wash 5 cars by noon” may be Specific, Measurable, Attainable and Time-framed but lacks Relevance.  Many times you will need support to accomplish a goal: resources, an influential voice, someone to knock down obstacles.  Goals that are relevant to your boss, your team, your organization
    will receive that needed support.  Relevant goals drive you, the team, or organization forward. A goal that supports or coordinates with other goals would be considered a relevant goal. A relevant goal answers these questions:

    • Is this worthwhile?
    • Is this the right time?
    • Does this match our other needs?
    • Am I the right person?


    This term stresses the importance of defining goals within a time frame and/or giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps you or your team focus your efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date.  Having a Time-frame requires you to focus on the goal  rather than the day-to-day crises that arise for you or your team. A time frame goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.