SMART goals are an essential part of the performance management routine. They guide and align our ambitions to an objective and verifiable standard. However, SMART goals have one fundamental flaw that can stifle growth and development. Just because a goal is SMART, doesn’t mean you will be SMART. Could I propose an alternative? How about SMART-ER goals?
If the narrow-minded purpose behind goal setting is some variation of “practice makes perfect,” then SMART goals will suffice. But if goal setting has a more ambitious aim, perhaps growth, performance, or development, then SMARTER goals need to prevail.
What is a SMARTER goal? Just add the “ER” to any objective and ask, “Is Education Required?” If you don’t have to learn something to accomplish a goal, then you are simply honing already developed skills. How about setting goals that require you to learn something before you can accomplish the objective? Set goals that force you to look something up, speak with someone more expert than yourself, watch a short video clip from one of the masters in your craft, or maybe, read a book. SMART goals are self-deceptive as they only demand that we make our goals clear and reachable. How about being SMARTER and make those goals just a bit beyond your reach? Build in a learning challenge and stretch yourself.
SMART goals are about effort; SMARTER goals are about performance. Confusing effort and performance is a strategic error. It’s like putting your car into neutral and revving the engine – lots of sound and fury, but you don’t end up anywhere different. Next time you’re setting a goal, put your energy into gear, demand that you learn something, and make your goal SMARTER.