I did smile today when someone sent me an email explaining SMART goals.
It’s always so interesting to see such a mature business tool being realised by a new audience. SMART, the acronym for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (or Timely), has been doing the rounds since it was first published in Management Review back in 1981. George T. Doran took business legend Peter Drucker’s management goals a step further in his paper of that year. So, as business mnemonic, it’s over 40 years old now.
I first wrote about SMART goals back in 2012 in an article for a series of educational articles for UK small business directors. Our sales & marketing section included highly successful pieces on, for example, SWOT analysis, PEST analysis and marketing strategy. We ranked highly in Google for a number of those subjects and, until the big competitors muscled in, we received a lot of organic traffic too.
Seeing these business tools be so popular and fundamental to business intelligence and analysis, I added a piece on SMART goals, entitled A SMART Business is a SMARTER Business. It contained two more stages – Evaluate and Re-evaluate to make the SMART acronym SMARTER.
The business advice gained even more organic traffic and was regularly shared in our email newsletter to between 10,000 and 20,000 UK small business owners every week, driving even more valuable visitors to our website’s pages.
FAST Beats SMART
Now I don’t have many qualifications, especially in the realm of business, but I do own a copy of Josh Kaufman’s excellent The Personal MBA and have 21+ years working with my eyes wide open in a commercial digital environment. All that, and working for over a decade (13 years) for a website that promoted intelligent and actionable business advice, I’ve seen quite a few frameworks and business models in my time.
Donald and Charles Sull wrote that With goals, FAST beats SMART and went on to claim that whilst individual employees might win with SMART goals, an organisation can still fail to execute its strategy if it’s too siloed or doesn’t adjust from acting upon SMART input.
Instead, they proposed a FAST system;
- Frequent discussions.
- Ambitious scope.
- Specific metrics and
There’s certainly a lot of merit to the FAST goal framework – taking the last letter, T – making goals transparent for everyone in an organization to see, is crucial for adopting cross-department and even individual buy-in. When workers exist in silos, unaware of the work of other individuals and departments, there’s a massive potential for inefficiency and failure to realise and drive common goals.
The Specific still alludes to SMART goals.
Ambitious is absolutely key to any success.
And frequency really resonates with Scrum and Agile methodologies that are prevalent in project management circles.
There’s a lot more going for FAST goals than just SMART ones.
Then you’ve got Adam Kreek, the Canadian former Olympic rower and now business coach and author.
Whilst preparing for an Atlantic crossing in a rowing boat, Kreek and his team had three goals:
- Don’t die.
- Don’t kill your mates and
- Don’t sink your boat.
Ironically, the team’s boat capsized off the coast of Africa just 73 days into their epic global journey.
Now you could use these three simple steps as commercial metaphors, but they don’t quite fit the SMART and FAST methodologies and aren’t exactly business-friendly. So when Kreek retired from rowing and went into motivational speaking, using his athletic career as a foundation, he devised the more appropriate CLEAR goals process.
His collaborative start alludes to teamwork, again rising above the personal limitations of SMART goals.
The limited part aligns with the timely aspect of SMART.
Emotional is interesting, because so many projects, concepts and businesses succeed when there’s that emotional bond.
Appreciable too is a unique approach – it’s very much in keeping with, and combining SMART’s Realistic and Achievable actions.
The refinable part is very much like the additional evaluate and re-evaluate of the SMARTER objectives, once again making SMART goals more dynamic, more agile.
So there you have it – SMART goals are great, but the model is over 40 years old now, so SMARTER, FAST and CLEAR objectives may fit better with twenty first century business models.
What do you think?