What are SMART objectives, and how do I write them?

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We’ve heard it before — the moral of the tortoise and the hare is that persistence triumphs over haste. But how often does that happen in real life? If the race were a metaphor for business, what would be the best strategy— setting steady SMART objectives or a more go-for-it approach?

In this guide to SMART objectives, we’ll share some key benefits of employing the SMART framework in your company goal-setting and run you through how it’s done. 

Let’s start simple.

What are SMART objectives?

Businesses use SMART objectives to set measurable, practical goals and satisfy their overall strategy.

There are two ways to define SMART objectives. One breaks down the acronym SMART into Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Each metric helps guide how you write your business objectives. 

The other is quite literal — the SMART acronym is named so for a reason. It’s an effective, clever way to structure your goals.

How to write SMART objectives

When writing SMART objectives, it’s essential to make sure you address all five benchmarks. This isn’t a choose-your-own-adventure — the SMART framework relies on total commitment for full impact.

But how do you make sure you’re hitting every target? By understanding what each one means. Here’s a breakdown of the SMART acronym:

Specific — What exactly are we trying to achieve?

SMART objectives should be as clear and direct as possible. Instead of writing ‘Make more money’, try something like ‘Improve monthly sales revenue’.

Measurable — What is the evidence of success?

Your objectives should be measurable, meaning you should outline quantifiable benchmarks when writing your goals. This will also help you track your progress.

Achievable — Can we realistically accomplish this?

This parameter is about capacity. Can you reasonably achieve your objective on time with the resources you have? Be ambitious, but don’t let it get to an overwhelming place.

Relevant — Does this align with the strategy?

Your objectives should align with the long-term strategy of the business. Establish how achieving your objectives will help you and your organisation.

Time-bound — What’s the deadline?

Objectives with an end date are more likely to stay on track. Setting a deadline will motivate you and help you prioritise your goals.

Why are SMART objectives important?

It’s true — the SMART framework requires a little more thought than you might expect, but the value that comes from it will far outweigh the time spent writing objectives. SMART objectives are important for three key reasons:

Improved alignment

By implementing the SMART framework, you’re creating a shared vision, which is crucial to team success. SMART objectives bring greater alignment by clearly articulating what you need to do and when you should do it. 

Greater progression

One goal of SMART objectives is to create a shared vision, and with alignment comes progression. Good SMART objectives encourage teams to stay the course using deadlines, metrics and specificity. Teams that understand how their work fits into company strategy are also more motivated.

Better tracking

Measuring your goals ensures you’ll know exactly when you have reached them. It also means you’ll be able to see your progress along the way. Tracking allows you to evaluate and learn from the goal-setting process — whether you hit your objectives or not.

SMART objectives examples

Looking for a bit of inspiration? Who could blame you — with all the business jargon on this page, even we need an example. Without further ado, we’d like to present you with three SMART objective examples from a range of departments.

Sales SMART objective 

SMART goal: Generate 200 qualified leads in June by increasing the frequency and diligence of cold calls.

  • Specific — Increase qualified leads.
  • Measurable — 80 new qualified leads per month.
  • Achievable — We have time to improve qualifying questions and allocate more time to cold calls.
  • Relevant — Generate leads to increase customer base.
  • Time-bound — Complete this goal in June.

People & culture SMART objective 

SMART goal: Increase employee retention rate by 10% this quarter by improving workplace culture.

  • Specific — Improve retention rate.
  • Measurable — Increase retention rate from 75% to 85%.
  • Achievable — Pre-approved budget for culture-improving activities.
  • Relevant — Save resources spent on hiring by retaining employees.
  • Time-bound — Achieve this goal by the end of the quarter.

Marketing SMART objective

SMART goal: Boost lead conversion rate by 3% this month by publishing more targeted content.

  • Specific — Improve lead conversion rate.
  • Measurable — See a 7% improvement in conversions from leads.
  • Achievable — Content team has signed off on five new blogs this month.
  • Relevant — Increasing lead conversions boosts marketing revenue.
  • Time-bound — Complete this goal by the end of the month.

SMART objectives vs OKRS

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and SMART objectives are two separate goal-setting methods — but that doesn’t mean they can’t coexist.

Unlike the one-and-done writing approach of SMART objectives, in the context of OKRs, ‘objectives’ is the first step in a three-part plan. Objectives certainly need to be specific, but it’s not until you get to Key Results that things start looking SMART.

Let’s break it down further.

First, you set broad ‘Objectives’, then SMART ‘Key Results’ and finally, initiatives. 

1. Set Objectives

Set broad goals for the quarter. Keep it simple and avoid quantitative measures. To maintain focus, don't outline more than three objectives per quarter.

2. Define Key Results

Using the SMART framework, outline two or three statements that fit under your objectives and evaluate their success. Any of the above ‘SMART Objectives’ would work here.

3. List initiatives

This is your roadmap to success. Plot your course to make your Key Results happen. Don’t go overboard — you want to allow room for creativity. 

OKRs aren’t set-and-forget, so once you’ve nailed the writing part, look at our guide to tracking OKRs.

More of a kinesthetic learner? Sign up for a free trial of Tability, our simple, user-friendly OKRs software today!

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Monika Gudova

Content Writer and Editor

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