Objectives smart and dumb
The management industry does seem to like its acronyms and this article briefly looks at objective or goal setting in two formats, the SMART way and the GROW version.
Every organisation that I can remember working for would have a yearly type review where objectives were set for the year ahead and these were (mostly) the things you would be measured by in 12 months time. The concept of Management by Objectives (MBO) was popularised by Peter Drucker in his 1954 book The Practice of Management. There are many benefits to this approach accounting for its widespread adoption, not least aligning the employee's work efforts with the needs of the organisation, the oversight and guidance provided by the experienced manager toward the employee to ensure appropriate personal development of the individual and the positive impact for the employee in achieving the goals.
While of course MBO can take many forms and simply needs goals to qualify, more structured and thoughtful approaches will likely lead to more positive outcomes. One such approach is the SMART approach, where each letter stands for a characteristic of the goal.
S - specific, that is, the goal should well defined and unambiguous. S can also stand for significant, strategic or stretching
M - measurable, so progress can be measured/ascertained. M can also stand for motivating, or meaningful
A - achievable, so that the goal is realistic. A can also be agreed, ambitious, acceptable, action orientated
R - relevant, the goal should be relevant to the individual and the organisation. R can also be realistic or rewarding.
T - time bound or timely, that is the objective should be achieved within a finite time frame, often the year ahead. T might also be tangible or trackable.
If a goal qualifies against each criteria, so that it is a SMART goal, it will likely be of significantly more value to develop the employee so benefiting the individual and the organisation as a whole.
I often think it is a good job that the goal should not be desirable, unambiguous, measurable and beneficial otherwise we would all have DUMB objectives.
Another way to consider objectives is the GROW model. Here the letters stand for the following:
G - is the Goal, this is the end point and what you would like to achieve
R - is the Reality, where you are now, and allows you to gauge the distance between you and your goal
O - is the Obstacles that stand between you and your goal. O is then the Option available that allow you to deal with Obstacles in your way
W - is the Way Forward, where the Options become action steps
Two further issues here come to mind. First, so often and as we have all no doubt experienced, goals get set out in December or January for the year ahead, and then spend 12 months in a drawer only to be dusted down a year later. If the goals are important to the individual and the organisation (and if they aren't, why bother setting them in the first place), then there should be a process of continual coaching and oversight so that an individual can continuously build towards achievement of the goals.
The second issue is how many goals should an individual have? Ken Blanchard on the One Minute Manager suggests 3 - 5 goals. That intuitively makes sense, since one or two goals suggests insufficient development, while more than five risks dilution, conflict or just getting overwhelmed by too many things to juggle at the same time. I've always felt 5 was a good number but individual circumstances of course vary.
In any case, if you are setting goals for others, or deciding on your own goals for the year ahead, I hope this provides a helpful framework to think about what those goals should be.
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