SMART goal definition and method

The SMART goals method is a framework used to formulate and manage goals effectively and efficiently. The SMART acronym meaning is  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Origin of the SMART goals definition

The origin of the SMART definition is attributed to George T. Doran, who introduced the concept in an article published in the journal "Management Review" in 1981. Doran proposed this method as an effective tool for formulating goals that are both easily understandable and achievable. Since then, the SMART goals method has been widely used in various fields, including management, marketing, education, and psychology.

SMART Goals method Criteria

What do the five SMART criteria mean in detail?
  • Specific (S): A specific objective is clear and precise. It answers questions such as: who is involved? What do we want to accomplish? Where will this happen? When will this happen? What factors are needed to achieve the goal, and what are the potential obstacles? A specific objective is well defined and easily understood by all. For example, rather than saying "I want to increase sales", you could say "I want to increase sales of our product X by 10% in the next quarter".
  • Measurable (M): A measurable objective is quantifiable. It involves a yardstick that tracks progress toward the goal and determines when the goal is achieved. Measurable goals can answer questions such as: how much? how many times ? how much growth or change? For example, "increase customer satisfaction" could be made measurable by saying "increase customer satisfaction score from 4 to 4.5 out of 5".
  • Achievable (A): An achievable goal is realistic, given the available resources and the context. This is a goal that can be achieved with reasonable effort and is consistent with existing policies and procedures. For example, if the company increased sales by 5% the previous year, a goal of increasing sales by 50% might not be achievable.
  • Relevant (R):  A relevant objective is aligned with the overall objectives of the organization and is important for the accomplishment of these objectives. It is linked to the mission and vision of the organization, and it is relevant to the role and responsibilities of the individual or team pursuing that goal.
  • Time-bound (T): A time-bound goal has a clearly defined deadline. There is a set time frame to achieve the goal, which creates a sense of urgency and makes planning easier. Time goals can answer questions such as: when should the goal be achieved? What is the timeline for achieving the goal?

Examples and counter-examples of SMART goals

Examples of SMART goals

Here are some examples of SMART goals for different business functions:
  • Sales Department: Increase sales of our Product X by 10% in the next quarter.
  • Marketing department: Increase the conversion rate of our online advertising campaign by 20% in the next six months.
  • Human Resources Department: Reduce staff absenteeism by 15% over the next year.
  • Production: Increase the yield rate of production line X by 5% in the next quarter
  • R&D: Increase the number of patents filed by 20% over the next two years


A counterexample of a SMART objective in logistics might be "Improve delivery efficiency".
Although at first glance this objective may seem reasonable, it does not meet the SMART criteria for several reasons:
  • Specific: The objective is not specific enough. What does it mean to "improve delivery efficiency"? This could mean reducing delivery time, minimizing delivery errors, or something else. The indicator should specify what is supposed to be improved.
  • Measurable: The indicator is not measurable as is. There is no way to measure "delivery efficiency" without a specific metric. For example, this could be measured in terms of average delivery time, percentage of delivery errors, etc.
  • Achievable: Without a specific, measurable goal, it is difficult to determine if the goal is achievable.
  • Relevant: While it is likely relevant to improve delivery efficiency, without a specific goal, it is difficult to determine how this relates to the broader goals of    the company.
  • Time-bound: The objective does not specify when delivery efficiency should be improved. Is it in the next month? Next year ? This lack of timeliness makes it difficult to plan and track progress.

A SMART goal might be: "Reduce average delivery time by 15% over the next three months."

Benefits and disadvantages of the SMART method

One of the main advantages of the SMART methodology is that it provides a clear structure for the formulation of objectives, which makes the objectives more understandable and attainable. Additionally, SMART goals make it easier to measure progress and results, which can improve accountability and motivation.

However, the SMART methodology has two main drawbacks. It can encourage an excessive focus on measurable results, to the detriment of more qualitative or long-term aspects. Also, not all goals can be easily made SMART, and the effort to do so can sometimes lead to artificial or limited goals.


In conclusion, the SMART goals methodology is a valuable tool for formulating clear and achievable goals. However, it is important to use it wisely, taking into account its limitations and adapting its objectives to the specific needs of the organization.
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Thursday, 21 September 2023