Having Smart goals or, if preferred, a Smart approach to a project, is becoming more and more crucial, in the planning made by the project manager, for the success of the project itself.
Let’s try to analyze why.
The goals of a project: the premises that lead to SMART
A project goal describes the desired outcomes of a project, which are often tangible elements.
Goals can be used by companies, government agencies, non-profit organizations and even by private people for personal use for project planning.
A project can have a single goal, many parallel goals or different goals that must be achieved sequentially.
Goals must be settled at the beginning of the project life cycle, ie in the planning phase, in order to achieve maximum benefit.
A well-written goal is fundamental, because it can have an influence on every phase of the project life cycle.
When a specific goal is created and communicated, the team has a greater chance to achieve it, because the collaborators know exactly on what they are working.
Every kind of effort can benefit from the goals.
As an individual, it is possible to use a goal in order to choose exactly what and how to plan.
SMART goals: what they are and why they are important
Identifying a clear goal can be very difficult.
The difficulty is due to the many variables that each project presents.
Fortunately, there are many ways to simplify this process.
First, we have to take into consideration that the goals will contain key performance indicators.
They will be specific to the company or area of interest.
The fundamental questions are:
- how can we be sure that the project was successful?
- What has to be achieved?
- What change do we want to see as a result of the project?
An easy way to make sure that sufficient details are included in the goal – or in the different goals – is to follow the SMART approach.
SMART goals are:
- with a deadline.
SMART goals: are specific
The word “specific” means to clearly defines the goals, in detail, without leaving room for wrong interpretations.
Consider the so-called Five Ws, where the five W stand for the following questions:
Who? What? When? Where? Why?
Specific means, for instance, that you must be able to answer all these five questions.
Being specific requires commitment. It means preparing and activating an in-depth research on the problem you want to tackle.
General statements should be absolutely avoided, like for example: “this project will improve the employment of young people”.
There is the need to be specific, for example, what is the unemployment rate among young people and why is the situation like this, what strategies have already been implemented, why they have not worked and why the new project should be able to solve the problem.
Moreover, we recommend that you use a bullet list for the goals, which is easy to structure and visualize.
SMART goals: are measurable
The goals to be SMART must be measurable.
The word “measurable” refers to the measures and specifications of the performances that will determine if the goal has been achieved.
Everyone needs to know how to evaluate the success of the project.
For this reason the goals must allow to monitor the progress of the project and evaluate the final results.
A point of reference or a standard for success is something which measure progresses.
Measurable goals answer questions like “How much?” or “How many?”
In the previous example, this would mean to indicate “how many unemployed young people will be able to find a job within the end of the project”.
SMART goals: are achievable
The word “achievable” refers to the fact that the team has a reasonable expectation of completion with success.
Every project manager should give achievable goals to his collaborators.
If they work on extremely difficult jobs, their productivity can be reduced and this could have a negative effect on motivation.
The feeling of never being able to achieve the project goal within the deadline can bring the project to failure.
SMART goals: are relevant
A goal is “relevant” when it is in line with group or business goals.
If the goal of the project has no relevance to the general vision, it is practically useless and can not be defined as a SMART goal.
SMART goals: have a deadline
The last feature of a SMART goal is “having a deadline”.
It is necessary to include a project deadline or the specific period within which the goals has to be achieved.
A deadline helps to create the needed urgency.
It solicits the action and helps the responsibles to focuse on the commitments they have made.
This comes from the fact that they have a specific time frame within which to complete the task. It is not possible to go beyond this deadline or the performance will be lower.
This also is used to measure the efficiency of a team in achieving a particular goal.
Not having a deadline reduces the motivation and urgency of collaborators.
Suggestions for writing successful project goals
Analyzing results from similar projects and looking at what happens in the company or in the community in general can be a big help.
It can be a great advantage, for example, when we decide how long it will take to complete a task.
It is also necessary to consider all the individual steps to do, as well as consider potential events that could transform into an obstacle and not allow to achieve the goals in time.
Here are some useful suggestions to write successful project goals:
- Identify and write the goal, or goals, before starting the project;
- A goal can not be written in isolation. If the team does not believe in the goal, it will not work according to it. If the stakeholders do not agree, they will not provide resources. If the stakeholders do not agree with the goal, it is necessary to work with them until a vision that everyone shares is reached;
- Be short; so the goals can be read and understood;
- Be clear; do not provide a list of options. Just ask for what you need and what you expect;
- Use a simple language so that everyone can understand the goal and there is no misunderstanding;
- Goals should be controlled, make sure that your goals allow to do this.
A goal without an appropriate planning is nothing but a desire.
Clearly, this attitude is unacceptable in the business, because only thanks to a necessay planning, it is possible to win.
SMART goals exist to ensure that project results are achieved in an organized and caring manner, which offers a great competitive advantage.
In conclusion, life is unpredictable, and so are the projects.
Therefore, it is important that goals are flexible and negotiable.
However, this does not mean that they must be vague or general.
The goals must be extremely precise and detailed, but must also transmit the idea that, during the development of the project, the project manager will continuously work to make changes and corrections if and when necessary.