The new year is once again upon us which usually begins with a lot of New Year's resolutions that slowly fade away. But! This year is going to be different because you are going to get SMART. It is the year to be SMART about goal setting and sticking to them. This article will discuss the SMART method of creating goals and five ways to create motivating goals.
Goal Setting the SMART Way
Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham have conducted extensive research on goals, goal setting, and motivation related to goals. The SMART acronym was created during their research and is widely used in goal setting. SMART is designed to help in the process of goal creation. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Specific. When a goal is created, it needs to state exactly what is to be achieved. A goal must be clear and unambiguous, leaving no room for misinterpretation. "I want to increase production," leaves a lot of room for questions. If there is no set target within the goal, it cannot be measured. Also, vague goals lack motivational value. A specific goal would be "increase production 10 percent by the end of the first quarter". This goal states exactly what should happen and by when. After the end of the first quarter, management will be able to determine why the goal was or was not achieved.
Measurable. Without the ability to measure a goal, there is no way to determine if it has been achieved or not. The ability to measure a goal will help to keep the team to stay focused on the task. In the previous example, the 10 percent established how much of a production increase is desired.
Attainable. The purpose of a goal is to achieve it. Setting goals too high or at an unrealistic level will not be a motivator. Likewise, too easy of a goal will produce no motivation. Specific and challenging goal increase work performance over easy and ambiguous goals.
Relevant. Goals should be relevant to the direction management has set for the laboratory. These goals should be in alignment with the mission and vision statements of the laboratory. Also, each goal should be a step towards achieving any long- and short-term goals that have been set.
Time-Bound. Each goal should have a time frame or a due date. Setting a time frame for a goal will create a sense of urgency as the date approaches. Giving each goal a due date allows for evaluation to determine why a goal was not achieved.
5 Principles of Goal Setting
The five principles for creating motivating goals are clarity, challenge, commitment, feedback and task complexity.
Clarity. Clarity and the specific step of the SMART acronym are the same. Goals should state exactly what the desired outcome will be. Once goals have been established, write them down. Writing them down makes them real. Once in writing, place them in a visible place where it can serve as a constant reminder.
Challenge. The idea of a challenging goal is to put the goal out of reach far enough that it creates positive changes to reach the goal. This change could be in processes or equipment. Every goal set should be difficult but not impossible to achieve. As stated above, challenging goals create more motivation than easy goals. This principle goes hand-in-hand with the attainable step in SMART.
Commitment. Whether the goals are for an employee or a personal goal, there has to be commitment to the work towards the goals set. Involving employees in setting goals for themselves are more effective than management dictated goals. More commitment is needed to achieve more challenging goals.
Feedback. Feedback is needed to determine if the direction taken is on target to meet the goal and to adjust accordingly, if needed. However, adequate feedback cannot be given unless the goal is measurable.
Task Complexity. Complexity should be factored in when establishing a time-bound goal. Without additional time, there will be little to no motivation to achieve the goal because it will be viewed as impossible and overwhelming. The person should have the necessary skills and ability to complete the task.
Locke and Latham's research has provided an abundance of knowledge in the topic of goals, goal setting, and goal motivation. Using the SMART method to create goals and then following the five principles of goal setting will ensure your and the lab's goals will be achieved.
Locke, E. & Latham, G. (2006). New directions in goal-setting theory. Current Directions in Psychological Science: 15(5). p.265-268.
Mind Tools. (2011). Locke's goal setting theory – understanding SMART goal setting. Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_87.htm.
Mind Tools. (2011). Golden rules of goal setting: five rules to set yourself up for success. Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_90.htm.