MAY 2021
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Setting SMART goals doesn't mean that you are that smart!

By Dr. Karyn Mathura-Arthur and Kamlesh Darji

Among some of the difficult decisions that one will make, especially in business, is answering the question: What is a "SMART goal?” Is it because it worked in the past? Or is utilitarian in nature? Or it just seemed the right thing to do?

It is not hard to notice that there is usually a thin line between a SMART or reckless goal. One way to look at it: SMART goals are reckless ideas that worked out. Still, what every goal need is a smart plan, different from SMART goals.

A SMART goal is a concept set up as a play on the word as well as an acronym of five starting letters (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). Most people still don't agree with the concepts of SMART goals and even further argue that it is stifling.

Since the days of Henry Ford, it has become harder to tell the differences between a "smart move" and a "reckless move." Even Aristotle agrees that "no moment of brilliance was born without a touch of madness." To shed some light on why SMART goals do not make business decisions that smart:

If you aim towards a goal where there is "special" emphasis on the concepts, it becomes hard. Goals should be crucial and not the concept or tactics (which makes it boring).

Things like intuition, passion, and intelligence are many of the things that lead to making smart moves. Using the SMART goals concept can be a very boring path. It requires you to gather tools, statistics, data, courage, figures, and a lot more. And with such complexities, sometimes those goals are abandoned.

Data can be used to help you develop concepts based on what is already in the marketplace. Do you think Elon Musk used data to develop the SpaceX program? His approach is to goal setting is to:

  1. Think big

  2. Start small

  3. Move fast.

When you set a goal, it might not always be the best decision in the long run. It could well affect the business or long-term success of your plan, SMART goals are culpable of this. Being smart means choosing long-term and steady success over short-term ones.

The very nature of SMART goals means that the success of all concepts is the main and immediate focus

Henry Ford already believed in building a way to for us to drive and if he believed in what people needed, would not have accomplished his goal: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

SMART goals have limitations to how much further they can go. The "Achievable” and "Realistic" in the term mean that goals do not need to "stretch" the person or organization, which is wrong in many cases.

Setting up SMART goals for yourself or anything is one major step away from your individuality. Since you are out chasing something else, you start to compromise on big issues and beat yourself up to reach some targets. Being smart, however, means being original, spontaneous, flexible and agreeable without stumping on your values.

Goals should be for the aim of self-discovery, improvement, expansion and fulfillment, rather than stifling, unbending and boring.

In an organization, forcing the SMART narratives on your employees could lead to the conundrum of "more bots and fewer humans." Keep this in mind as you continue to traverse in an Agile approach to goal setting.

Dr. Karyn Mathura-Arthur is an agile implementation leader with experience in Operational Excellence, Continuous Process Improvement, Business Transformation, Process Engineering and Organizational Change Management across multiple industries (banking, insurance, healthcare, telecom, government, retail, etc.). For comments and suggestions, email [email protected]

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