The scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz thought he didn’t have a brain. When he met the Wizard after helping Dorothy find her way on the Yellow Brick road, he found out he had one after all. Even still, it would have been a lot easier if he had used the SMA2RT Tool!
After teaching new managers for over 15 years in several major companies, I’ve heard dozens of excuses why the objective-setting process doesn’t work. I’ve heard about the non-flexible IT systems HR keeps designing to store the objectives, or maybe it’s the cascade process that takes until the middle of a given fiscal year, or it’s might be that people see objective-setting as nothing more than paper work – not as a key capability of a great manager to get work done through other people.
Regardless of the ‘system’ HR requires you to follow, it’s essential that you as a manager set clear objectives with your people and create an on-going follow-up system to ensure people are on track with getting them accomplished.
The best tool I’ve found for establishing clear objectives is the SMA2RT tool. The acronym SMA2RT stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Aligned, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Use it as a checklist to ensure your people have clear goals to obtain during the year.
S=Specific: Specificity is about giving enough detail so that people are clear on what you need done. I won’t repeat myself on this one. I described in detail how hard it is to be clear in the previous post.
M= Measurable: Many managers get stalemated on this one. Some common reasons why:
- They measure what they can measure vs. what they should measure. It’s really difficult to find a single, accurate measure of what success looks like for a project or goal. So they grab the first measure they can get their hands on whether it’s any good or not.
- They start the search for the metric before they discuss what success looks like with the employee. Here’s one way you might start this discussion… “Let’s describe what success looks like (paint a picture).” What would be happening, what would co-workers be saying, what would the customer be saying was great about it? Then ask, “And how would we know that this was happening?” Now its time to look for both quantitative and qualitative indicators we would have.
- This is another problem with metrics – we forget that we need more than one indicator to know something – we are really looking for a convergence of indicators – both qualitative and quantitative to substantiate our achievement of success.
- We get stuck because we forget to ask, “As we set our sites on these indicators and metrics, will there be any unintended consequences of focusing on these metrics?” “What else should be consider looking at so we don’t try to meet these targets at any cost?
- Finally, we forget to distinguish between ‘Meets expectations’ and ‘Exceeds expectations’ – define the two levels of performance as two meaningfully different standards. Example: If the ‘meets’ target for customer satisfaction ratings is 90% are your going to give someone an ‘exceeds’ rating if they hit 90.6%? I doubt it – is that a meaningful difference?
A = Action-Oriented: Now that you have a good picture painted of success, with a few indicators of success identified, you are ready to help the person get started on the objective. Action oriented is about ensuring people know what steps are needed along the way. What they will need to DO in order to make this happen. You might even want to put in some milestones along the way (perhaps even some interim Metrics to make sure they are on track to the final goal). Inexperienced employees will need a lot help in filling in the detail of their Action Plan.
A=Aligned: In many SMART models, the A stands for Aligned, so I’ve included both in mine. Aligned is about the “WHY?” of this objective. Why it is important this is done. Why this will make a difference to the customer. And Why you are the right person for this task. Answering the Aligned questions taps into the internal motivations of the individual. It is no surprise that a little bit of purpose tied into daily work objectives goes a long way (Recommended reading: The Power of Purpose – Richard J. Leider)
Next week I’ll continue with the R & T of the SMA2RT Tool. (Be sure to sign up with your email so you don’t miss it!)
Your assignment for this week:
Pull out your own objectives and check the S, M, A and A components. Make notes for yourself and share in the conversation by leaving a comment to the question:
What would you change to make them SMA2RTer?