Are Smart Goals Dead?

52 Books - Book 29

Do you set SMART goals? Those are the goals that are specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and time bound. They are often practical in terms of managing performance in an organization. When you think about managing your own talent and bringing about your big dreams for yourself and others, they are not a hefty enough approach.

Author Mark Murphy serves up a different helping of advice for goal setting in his book Hard Goals: The Secret To Getting From Where you Are to Where You Want To Be.  Hard goals align well with the leadership process. Here is how he explains hard goals:

Heartfelt, you’ve got to have an emotional attachment to your goal, it has to scratch an existential itch.

Animated, goals need to be motivated by a vision, picture or movie that plays over and over in your mind.

Required, it needs to feel so urgently necessary that you have no other choice but to start acting on them right here, right now.

Difficult, goals need to drag you out of your comfort zone, activating your senses and attention.

Creating an emotional attachment to a vision rather than specific actions makes sense.  We know that once we see what we want to achieve and we start taking actions, things change and we have stretch our abilities.  SMART Goals are probably the best choice in management if you want to measure performance and specific outcomes. When it comes to leading, we need our goals to have a clear powerful vision that we can come back to over and over again when we start taking action and running into obstacles.

For example, if you look at my blurb at the end of each post about the books I am reading you can see that I planned to read a book a week for 52 weeks.  I have run into a few obstacles.  It is annoying when a specific goal is not meant and according the research that Hard Goals was based upon, it discourages people so they just give up.  So instead, I look at the larger picture of what I want to accomplish.  For me, writing and reading is nourishing and fundamental to my growth, so I persist even though I am slightly off track of my original goal.

I am curious: Have you found SMART goals to be helpful and if so, in what ways. 

Every week during 2014 I look forward to sharing books that I am reading.  The lens of the leadership process will be the filter for which I recommend books.  Books are powerful vehicles for providing us with inspiration and new ideas.