Looking to understand the background on SMART goals and how to use them? Start from the top.
Got that nailed and just want examples? Hit the link in the Table of Contents on the left to skip ahead.
SMART goals examples
The chances are high that you are not reading this term for the first time, because the concept has been around for several decades now. You can probably even remember what 2 or 3 of the letters stand for. You probably know that SMART goals are useful.
But have you ever actually applied the framework in real life? And would you be able to write out some SMART goal examples to explain the principle to your team members?
If not, why not?
In this blog post, we will:
The aim of this post is to encourage you to incorporate SMART goal setting into the everyday business activities of you and your team.
Because, as you’ll see, all goals should be SMART.
What is a SMART goal?
There are, no doubt, many reasons why people may kind of know that SMART goals are good but haven’t really used them properly. Perhaps there is a fear of accountability. Or of failure.
Perhaps the concept seems so simple that it must be common sense – therefore, no need to get all organised about it.
It’s time to strip away the preconceptions, justifications, and excuses.
What is a SMART goal?
Put succinctly, a SMART goal is a well-defined goal with a plan and a due date. It has a higher likelihood of succeeding than a non-SMART goal with a vague objective, no plan, and no end in sight. (Otherwise known as a wish.)
A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Absolutely, it is common sense. The person who introduced the acronym didn’t invent a new way of achieving goals.
But you know what they say about common sense…
Why should I and my team use SMART goals?
Good question. Get right down to it. What’s in it for you?
You should use SMART goals in business to increase your chances of achieving the goals you set.
Everybody needs goals to advance in life or in business. If you own a business, you will have goals you are working to. If you have a team working for you, you will want them to be working towards goals that improve them as employees and people, and towards common goals that improve the effectiveness of the business. Ensuring those goals are SMART will increase their chances of success.
How to write smart goals for your business
Time to refresh the memory.
The more focused and specific you make your goal – answering questions such as What? Who? When? Where? Which? and Why? – the more clarity you and your team will have regarding what success looks like.
A vague goal such as “We want to increase sales” will have as many definitions of success as there are people in your team.
The aim is to establish a goal that cannot be misinterpreted. Take the time to nail down the specifics of the goals you are setting.
If you can put a number on it, you can measure your progress towards the goal. Milestones, benchmarks, percentage complete – incorporating these things into the goal setting will let you know how you’re tracking and will tell you when your goal has been achieved.
If it is to be successful, the goal must be achievable. Do you have the necessary resources to reach the goal you have in mind? If you don’t, then the goal may need to be dialled down or even rewritten. Perhaps the first goal should be to put in place the resources needed to tackle the original goal you had in mind.
When setting goals for your team or, more ideally, with your team, it is crucial to obtain their buy-in. A key alignment will occur if you and your team can agree that a given goal can be achieved.
Therefore, encourage your team-members to be upfront about goals that are unrealistic.
Does the goal fit into your business’s big picture? Does it match with your values and long-term plans? If you can answer those questions with a “Yes”, you’re on the right track.
Similarly, if you and your team are willing and able to work towards the goal – if you believe in it – you’ll be starting from a good position.
I’m not going to be cheesy and say, “A goal is a dream with a deadline”, but we’ve probably all seen the inspirational poster. By all means, aim high and be ambitious. But give yourself a start date and an end date.
Without a timeline, it is hard to track progress. Without a target date, how can a team work together effectively to achieve the goal?
Picking the target date can be tricky. Not allowing enough time makes it unrealistic. Too much time, and people’s minds can meander. The target date for your goal needs to encourage motivation and foster an element of urgency.
4 SMART goals examples
That was the theory, now for the practice. This section gives 4 SMART goals examples to show how they can be practically applied in your business.
Taking worthy but weak goals as a starting point, these examples show how considering each of the criteria can turn them into SMART goals.
SMART goals example #1: Customer Service
Reduce customer turnover by improving the customer experience.
We’re going to improve our onboarding process so that more of our customers will become ‘promoters’. This will lead to increased revenues without an increased ad spend.
Our current NPS Score is 7.5. We aim to increase the NPS Score to 8.2.
We’ve identified bottlenecks in the onboarding process. If we remove them, customer satisfaction is likely to improve.
Providing an incredible user experience is one of the planks of our organisational strategy.
We will start the project to clear the onboarding bottlenecks next week. We expect to have achieved our target by the end of Q3 when the NPS survey for the final month of Q3 comes out.
SMART Goal Summary
We will improve customer experience by removing the bottlenecks we’ve found in the onboarding process. Our aim is to increase our current NPS Score of 7.5 to 8.2 by the end of Q3.
SMART goals example #2: Sales
We want to increase sales without increasing ad spend.
We are going to increase the conversion rate for Landing Page ‘X’, our lowest-performing page.
We plan to increase the page’s conversion rate from 10% to 22% to match the average conversion rate for our most successful landing pages.
The average conversion rate of our 4 most successful landing pages is 22%. Landing Page ‘X’ was not updated when those 4 pages were created; therefore, replicating their format is expected to increase its conversion rate.
This goal aligns with our quarterly goal of increasing sales without increasing ad spend.
Project to be completed by the end of Q2.
SMART Goal Summary
We will increase sales without increasing ad spend by updating Landing Page ‘X’ so that its conversion rate matches those of our top 4 landing pages. Success will be and increase in the conversion rate from 10% to 22% (and above) by the end of Q2.
SMART goals example #3: Leadership and team
We want to increase clarity regarding team members’ responsibilities.
We are going to develop a complete organisational chart and write position descriptions for all team members.
Our goal will be achieved when we have a total of 6 completed position descriptions – one for each team member – and 1 organisational chart.
Drafting and review is expected to take 2 hours per description, and we will allow a day to draft, review, finalise and publish the organisational chart.
This goal is aligned with our organisational strategy to become an Employer of Choice.
First drafts of position descriptions: 2 weeks from now.
Review and approve position descriptions: 4 weeks from now.
Position descriptions and organisational chart to be finalised: 6 weeks from now.
SMART Goal Summary
We are going to increase clarity regarding team responsibilities by writing position descriptions for every team member and developing an organisational chart. We are going to achieve this in the next 6 weeks.
SMART goals example #4: Operations
We want to free up the customer service team’s time, by reducing the number of customer enquiries.
On average, we receive 8 enquiries per week for our 3 most-asked questions. We want to significantly reduce the time spent by our customer service team in responding to such enquiries.
We are aiming to cut the number of enquiries from 8 to 4 enquiries per week for each of the 3 questions.
We plan to make the information our customers are seeking more readily accessible both before sign-up (via website FAQs) and after sign-up (knowledge centre).
Achieving this goal will help maximise efficiency and reduce operating costs.
The information relating to the 3 most-asked questions will be added to the website and knowledge centre within 6 weeks from now.
SMART Goal Summary
We will improve the effectiveness of our customer service team by halving the number of times they have to respond to our 3 most-asked questions (from 8 times per week to 4 times). We will achieve this by making the answers to those questions more accessible to our customers through the website FAQs and the knowledge centre.
7 top tips for success
Setting goals is vital for the ongoing success of any enterprise. A team working together in harmony towards shared goals that everyone believes in sounds like perfection. It is a worthy aim, one that can be brought closer to reality every time a SMART goal is set.
The following tips will help you as you contemplate writing SMART goals with your team:
Common challenges in setting SMART goals
It is important to remember that the concept of SMART goals wasn’t an invention. Rather, it was simply an observation of a very good way to set and achieve goals.
There is a danger that you or I might think “Yes, yes, I know all that stuff. It’s basic!”
Yes, it is basic, but is it so basic that we incorporate the principles of good goal setting every time we aim to accomplish something? Or are some of our goals MART (not specific enough), SART (“are we there yet?”), or more ART than SMART?
Miss one of the pieces of the puzzle, and there will be some trouble. Miss two or more…
Yes, it is all common sense, but common sense tells us to write things down and have a plan. To get everybody on board. To plan to succeed.
Perhaps the first SMART goal for your business should be to simply commit to getting started.
So, there you go. This was a refresher course on what SMART goals are (well-defined goals with plans and due dates) and a reminder of the SMART goal meanings behind the letters (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound).
It’s not rocket science; it’s more like common sense. But we all need reminders.
If you need help in setting your own goals, the 4 SMART goal examples in this post will provide useful prompts.
There will be challenges in getting started, perhaps in getting everybody on board. But if you can convince them of the benefits of systematic goal setting – to individuals as well as the team as a whole – then you may just be throwing open your door to new possibilities.
Start small, be realistic, and select goals that you believe in.
(I’m not going to say, “It’s the SMART thing to do.”)