Going back to my undergrad days and ever since, the premise of S-M-A-R-T objective
setting has been a non-stop mantra.
S-M-A-R-T being an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Relevant, and
Timely or Time-bound.
For over a decade, I have had to establish SMART objectives for myself during my performance dialogues, which naturally I did because I consider myself slightly SMART; pun
That said, all these years there was something about SMART objective setting that did not sit well with me and I was very reluctant to share my perspective.
I was reluctant to share for two main reasons. First, everyone around me and everywhere I looked, everyone was espousing the greatness of SMART objectives.
Next, if I had to explain the reason SMART did not sit well with me, I could not explain it.
I will use an example that I have often seen to describe a SMART objective to relay my perspective; the NASA 1969 moon landing.
I have come across may that use this as a great example of a SMART objective laid
out by then President JKF to land a man on the moon before 1970.
So, lets take it one letter at a time.
S, for Specific. Yes, it was very specific; land a man on the moon.
M, for Measurable. Yes, it was measurable; man on the moon = success, no man on
the moon = failure.
A, for Achievable/Attainable. Yes, if you believe the bravado. Heck-NO if you actually look at the facts and data. They had no clue if it was really possible to land a man on the moon.
R, for Relevant. Yes, if you worked for NASA or cared only about the Cold War. Heck-NO
if you were fighting for Civil Rights, Gay Rights, for Gender Equality, for Education, Health Care, Infrastructure, Jobs, Affordable Housing in the US.
During this tumultuous time in US history, did it objectively make sense to spend this much money and resources on this mission at the cost of all the other important matters of the day?
T, for Time-bound or Timely. Yes, it was time-bound with a date of 1970. That said, was there a logic to this date?
I have come across many deadlines being assigned on projects with no objective reasoning, it was far from SMART.
In one instance, I was given a deadline of two weeks to complete the last phase of a major implementation project. When I asked where the two-week dealing came from, they told me it was because the contract of the Project Manager ended in two weeks.
After I did an assessment, I relayed that I calculated this phase of the implementation would take at least 3 months, they were not too happy with me and suggested it did not fall within their SMART objective.
If you are curious, at the end, the last phase of the implementation took 5 months hence it was not very timely at all yet an overall success, nonetheless.
Given my analysis above, with all due respect to the SMART experts, there was nothing
SMART about a man landing on the moon in 1969. Yet, I for one am glad NASA was not so SMART in this instance as it is still a monumental achievement in human history.
Given this example and many more I could provide, I have come realize that when you are
trying to do something new, something never done before or what we would call innovative, it might not be SMART at all yet still merits trying.
I have come to realize that in times of challenge and even crisis, SMART might need to go out the window.
It takes courage in these instances not to be SMART to get done what needs to even if it seems improbably or impossible.
In times when major change or shifts are needed, SMART might be too safe and not have the impact needed.
I see much more clearly now that there is nothing wrong with SMART in regular, normal, stable times or for a regular performance goal setting exercise, yet don’t expect to achieve greatness or innovation with SMART results.
So, I don’t dislike or object to SMART, I just prefer not to be so SMART if I don’t have to.
The moon landing was probably more “KRAYZ” than SMART, I for one prefer “KRAYZ”.