It was Lewis Carroll who first said “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” For far too many of us, that is how our businesses run, from having poorly defined and communicated goals to having no goals at all!
Strategy is a plan to achieve one or more long term goals. Goals, in turn, are defined using a structured approach. At TAC, we promote SMART goals, with a slight spin on the acronym:
- Specific – clearly articulated and detailed. You should be able to see a picture in your mind of what success will look like.
- Measurable – if it is worth setting, it is worth tracking so you know how you are doing. This is an important way to hold the organization or goal owner accountable, as well as to celebrate milestones.
- Agreed Upon – here we deviate from the commonly used ‘achievable.’ Most goals require the buy-in and support from other stakeholders. There is a better chance of success if others agree with the goal.
- Realistic – which is similar to achievable. Can it be accomplished, or have you set goals that are unlikely to be met? If a goal begins to feel unrealistic, people simply give up.
- Target Date – when would you like to cross this goal off as accomplished? It ties back to how realistic the goal is that you are setting. Ensure you have allowed sufficient ‘flat tire time.’ There are always unexpected glitches that cause delays.
When working with clients — either one-on-one or as part of our development programs, they consistently cite the discipline of goal setting as their biggest takeaway: it’s the thing they often know they should do, but admit they don’t commit to. What holds any of us back? Often, we do not write our goals down since doing so crystallizes a commitment we are not prepared to make. As one high school teacher told me, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
In the context of strategy, each letter of the SMART goal acronym is important. Thinking back to Lewis Carroll, communicating the goal to the organization so we all know where we are going is a SMART way to get there.
Four steps to a SMART strategy:
Step one is to develop the goal.
Step two is to communicate so we have a clear sense of direction.
Step three is to have regular check-ins and to course correct when required.
Step four is to celebrate success when you achieve the goal.
Commit to a structured, well-communicated goal setting process. Wherever you determine there is, you want to ensure you arrive.