What Are SMART Goals And Why They Matter In Business

A SMART goal is any goal with a carefully planned, concise, and trackable objective. To be such a goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Bringing structure and trackability to goal setting increases the chances goals will be achieved, and it helps align the organization around those goals.

Understanding SMART goals

“SMART” is an acronym which explains how a goal might be achieved. Here is a more detailed look at each letter in the SMART acronym.

S – Specific

When considering the goal, it helps to be as specific as possible. Many individuals and businesses set goals with arbitrary dollar amounts, such as becoming a millionaire or generation 10 million dollars in revenue.

If the goal is to make a certain amount of money, a more specific objective may be to make $40,000 per month for the next 5 years by selling 2500 units of a new software product.

Here, it helps to ask questions. What is it, in exact terms, that an individual or business hopes to achieve? Where, how, and when will this occur? What are the reasons for setting the goal in the first instance?

M – Measurable

Measurable goals have metrics that are used to gauge progress. This is particularly important for large and complex goals that must be broken down into smaller steps.

Measurable goals also let the individual or business know that they have reached the finished line.

A- Achievable

Goals must be realistically achievable, otherwise, the temptation may be to give up on achieving them entirely.

Businesses should set goals that their employees could reasonably expect to see through – given the materials and resources at hand.

It’s also important to identify any short or long term impediments that may divert these resources.

R – Relevant

Relevance means that individuals and businesses set goals that are aligned with their values and long-term objectives.

There is no point setting goals for the sake of it – so ensure that the reasons for conceiving a goal are aligned with broader strategies and company culture.

T – Time-based

Goals by their very definition need a deadline, particularly in business settings. Time-based goals are also important in tracking progress and setting milestones.

For example, a business wanting to double its revenue in 6 months would hope to increase revenue by 50% after the 3-month mark.

Some common mistakes when setting SMART goals


Clarity is key when setting SMART goals. A marketing department might not know where to start when presented with the goal of selling 5000 cars in the next 4 years.

However, the more specific goal of selling 5000 small cars in Italy by the end of 2025 gives them something to work with.


If the goal is to improve customer service, then there must be a customer service KPI with which to gauge progress.

Many businesses make the mistake of setting goals that simply can’t be measured. Here, quantitative or industry research is key.


If a business is particularly successful, it is easy to get carried away with goal setting.

An ambitious goal of selling 1 million pairs of shoes in the next 5 years is daunting and maybe unattainable without the required due diligence. In this case, smaller goals of selling 20,000 pairs every 3 months may be more suitable.

SMART goals examples

Let’s now explain some SMART goal examples across a variety of contexts.

Increasing job performance

In the first example, a small business owner wants to overhaul their website to drive more revenue.

Their goal is to redesign the company website by the end of September so that they can attract more clients.

  • Specific – I will undertake a complete site overhaul of the company’s website and launch it by September 30.
  • Measurable – To assist in the process, I will hire the expertise of one web programmer and one graphic designer.
  • Achievable – With respect to my business experience, existing commitments, and the addition of hired talent, I will devote 10 hours a week to the website to have a functional version online before the official launch on October 1.
  • Relevant – I recognize that a complete site redesign increases the legitimacy and professionalism of my business and enables me to better market my services to the rest of the world.
  • Time-sensitive – Since this goal must be achieved by the end of September, I have 2 months to spend on the site. This equates to approximately 90 hours of work.

Increasing the usage of a mobile app

In the second example, we have a SMART goal devised by a product manager at a tech company.

The product manager, which we will Mary, has been tasked with increasing usage of the company’s mobile app and is using the framework to ensure her team remains on track.

  • Specific – The objective is to grow the number of monthly users via targeted social media campaigns and optimization of the app-store listing.
  • Measurable – To increase the monthly user count by 2,000. This will be achieved via social media campaigns across Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter in addition to app-store optimization.
  • Achievable – Mary assesses the resources available to her and realizes that social media campaigns for three platforms may be overly ambitious. Rather than fall short, she decides to scale the objective down to the two platforms with the most potential users. These are LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Relevant – Since the app in question drives customer retention and loyalty, Mary recognizes that users who stick with the company longer will increase profitability for her employer.
  • Time-sensitive – To complete the SMART goal, Mary sets a completion date of end of Q1 2023.

Improving response time to customer complaints

In the last example, Jerry, a customer service manager, uses the SMART framework to improve response times to customer complaints.

  • Specific – Jerry’s goal is to improve the response time to customer complaints by recruiting new employees for his customer service team.
  • Measurable – The customer service team will add four extra staff in the next six months. This will mean the team is comprised of 12 individuals.
  • Achievable – Jerry is also moving to a new office soon, so he ensures that he has enough desk space for twelve computers.
  • Relevant – Reducing customer response time increases sales revenue, improves customer satisfaction, and also increases employee productivity and engagement. Jerry is also cognizant of the fact that he will need to add new clients to justify a staff of 12 over the long term.
  • Time-sensitive – The four extra staff must be recruited before the company moves to new premises on February 15.

Employee Development:

  • Problem: An employee wants to enhance their professional skills.
  • SMART Goal: To obtain a project management certification (PMP) within the next 9 months by enrolling in a PMP training course, studying for 10 hours a week, and passing the PMP exam.
    • Specific: The goal outlines the specific certification to achieve and the steps to attain it.
    • Measurable: Progress can be tracked by monitoring course completion and exam results.
    • Achievable: With dedicated study and a structured course, obtaining the PMP certification is realistic.
    • Relevant: Earning the PMP certification aligns with the employee’s career development goals.
    • Time-based: The goal is set for completion within 9 months.

Environmental Sustainability:

  • Problem: A company aims to reduce its carbon footprint.
  • SMART Goal: To decrease carbon emissions by 20% within the next year by implementing energy-efficient technologies, optimizing transportation routes, and promoting sustainable practices among employees.
    • Specific: The goal specifies the reduction target and the strategies for achieving it.
    • Measurable: Progress can be tracked by measuring carbon emissions regularly.
    • Achievable: With eco-friendly technologies and practices, a 20% reduction is feasible.
    • Relevant: Reducing carbon emissions aligns with the company’s commitment to sustainability.
    • Time-based: The goal has a one-year timeframe.

Community Engagement:

  • Problem: A nonprofit organization wants to increase volunteer participation.
  • SMART Goal: To recruit and engage 50 new volunteers for community projects within the next 6 months by launching targeted volunteer recruitment campaigns, organizing information sessions, and offering flexible volunteering opportunities.
    • Specific: The goal specifies the number of new volunteers and the actions to attract them.
    • Measurable: Progress can be tracked by counting the number of recruited volunteers.
    • Achievable: With effective campaigns and flexible options, recruiting 50 new volunteers is attainable.
    • Relevant: Increasing volunteer numbers supports the nonprofit’s mission to serve the community.
    • Time-based: The goal is set for accomplishment within 6 months.

Product Development:

  • Problem: A technology company wants to launch a new software product.
  • SMART Goal: To release a fully functional software product, including beta testing and user feedback, within 9 months by assembling a development team, defining key features, conducting testing, and gathering user input.
    • Specific: The goal outlines the specific product launch and the steps involved.
    • Measurable: Progress can be tracked by monitoring development milestones.
    • Achievable: With a dedicated team and a defined process, the product launch is realistic.
    • Relevant: Launching a new software product aligns with the company’s growth strategy.
    • Time-based: The goal has a timeframe of 9 months.

Personal Development:

  • Problem: An individual wants to become more proficient in a foreign language.
  • SMART Goal: To achieve conversational fluency in Spanish within 12 months by enrolling in language classes, practicing speaking with native speakers, and studying for 1 hour every day.
    • Specific: The goal specifies the language, proficiency level, and the actions to achieve it.
    • Measurable: Progress can be tracked through language proficiency assessments.
    • Achievable: With consistent practice and language classes, achieving conversational fluency is attainable.
    • Relevant: Learning Spanish aligns with the individual’s personal interests and travel aspirations.
    • Time-based: The goal is set for completion within 12 months.

Fitness and Health:

  • Problem: A person wants to improve their fitness and overall health.
  • SMART Goal: To lose 15 pounds of body weight within 3 months by following a balanced diet and exercising for 30 minutes daily.
  • Specific: The goal clearly defines the desired weight loss and the methods (diet and exercise) to achieve it.
  • Measurable: Progress can be tracked by monitoring weight loss over time.
  • Achievable: The goal is realistic and attainable with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
  • Relevant: Improved health and weight loss align with the individual’s long-term goal of a healthier lifestyle.
  • Time-based: The goal has a clear timeframe of 3 months.

Project Management:

  • Problem: A project manager needs to improve project completion rates.
  • SMART Goal: To increase project completion rates by 20% within the next quarter by implementing agile project management practices and conducting team training.
  • Specific: The goal specifies the desired increase in completion rates and the actions to achieve it.
  • Measurable: Progress can be measured by comparing completion rates before and after implementing changes.
  • Achievable: The goal is achievable with process improvements and training.
  • Relevant: Higher project completion rates align with the company’s strategic goals.
  • Time-based: The goal has a timeframe of the next quarter.

Sales Performance:

  • Problem: A sales team aims to boost its performance.
  • SMART Goal: To increase monthly sales revenue by 15% over the next six months by implementing a more targeted sales strategy and providing additional sales training.
  • Specific: The goal specifies the desired increase in sales revenue and the strategies to achieve it.
  • Measurable: Progress can be tracked by comparing monthly sales figures.
  • Achievable: The goal is realistic with targeted strategies and training.
  • Relevant: Higher sales revenue aligns with the company’s growth objectives.
  • Time-based: The goal has a timeframe of six months.


  • Problem: A student wants to improve their academic performance in a challenging course.
  • SMART Goal: To achieve an A grade in the upcoming semester’s advanced calculus course by attending weekly tutoring sessions, studying for a minimum of 15 hours per week, and seeking help when needed.
  • Specific: The goal specifies the desired grade and the actions to achieve it.
  • Measurable: Progress can be tracked by monitoring grades throughout the semester.
  • Achievable: The goal is attainable with regular tutoring and dedicated study time.
  • Relevant: Achieving an A grade aligns with the student’s academic goals.
  • Time-based: The goal is tied to the upcoming semester.

Personal Finance:

  • Problem: An individual wants to save money for a future vacation.
  • SMART Goal: To save $2,000 for a dream vacation within 12 months by creating a monthly budget, tracking expenses, and depositing a set amount into a dedicated savings account each month.
  • Specific: The goal specifies the savings target and the financial actions required.
  • Measurable: Progress can be tracked by monitoring savings contributions.
  • Achievable: The goal is realistic with a well-planned budget and disciplined savings.
  • Relevant: Saving for a dream vacation aligns with the individual’s personal aspirations.
  • Time-based: The goal has a timeframe of 12 months.

Key takeaways:

  • SMART goals are those that are carefully planned against certain criteria to increase the chances of them being accomplished.
  • SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.
  • Some common mistakes when setting SMART goals include those not backed by reliable KPIs or those that are simply unattainable in the recommended timeframe.

SMART Goals vs. OKR

Andy Grove, helped Intel become among the most valuable companies by 1997. In his years at Intel, he conceived a management and goal-setting system, called OKR, standing for “objectives and key results.” Venture capitalist and early investor in Google, John Doerr, systematized in the book “Measure What Matters.”

SMART goals and OKR are very similar tools, however, SMART goals are used more for personal development. Where instead OKR is a goal-setting system primarily thought for teams. So how to enable large organizations to achieve their goals at scale.

Therefore, while in terms of mindset SMART and OKR are similar. SMART goals usually are used more by solopreneurs, where OKR are used by startups and larger organizations.

SMART Goals vs. OKR vs. MBOs


Management by Objectives or MBO is a strategic management tool whose core principle is to define organizational objectives to align management with employees clearly. OKR is an evolution, as it breaks the silos and makes the shared objectives transparent to the whole company.

And those same objectives are aggressive and aspirational. SMART Goals can be used in the direction of OKRs but more at a personal level or at a smaller scale.

OKR and 10x thinking

OKR has been a system widely used in companies like Google to help scale up, while still aligning the company around so-called moonshots. Or small and larger bets that can make the company breakthrough in various verticals.

As OKR is by nature aggressive and aspirational, it fits well with the 10x thinking mindset.

Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.

Key Highlights of SMART Goals:

  • Definition: SMART goals are goals that are carefully planned, concise, and trackable. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.
  • Purpose of SMART Goals: SMART goals provide a structured framework for goal setting to increase the likelihood of achieving those goals. They bring clarity, accountability, and alignment to goal setting.
  • Specific (S): Goals should be specific and clearly defined. Avoid vague or arbitrary targets and focus on precise objectives.
  • Measurable (M): Goals should be measurable, with metrics that track progress and determine when the goal has been achieved. Measurement helps in tracking and evaluating success.
  • Achievable (A): Goals should be realistic and attainable. Setting overly ambitious goals can lead to frustration and demotivation. Consider available resources and constraints.
  • Relevant (R): Goals should be relevant to the individual or organization’s values, long-term objectives, and strategies. Alignment with broader purposes is crucial for meaningful goals.
  • Time-based (T): Goals should have a deadline. Setting a timeframe provides urgency, helps with tracking progress, and enables setting milestones.
  • Common Mistakes in SMART Goal Setting:
    • Vagueness: Goals should be specific, avoiding ambiguity. Clarity is crucial for effective goal pursuit.
    • Lack of KPIs: Goals should have measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track progress objectively.
    • Unattainability: Goals should be realistically achievable within the given resources and timeframe.
  • Examples of SMART Goals:
    • Increasing Job Performance: Redesigning a company website with specific metrics, resources, and timeframes.
    • Increasing App Usage: Growing monthly users through targeted campaigns and app-store optimization, with specific metrics and platforms.
    • Improving Customer Service Response Time: Adding new staff to the customer service team before a specific move date, with clear benefits and metrics.
  • SMART Goals vs. OKR: SMART goals and OKR (Objectives and Key Results) are similar but differ in scope. SMART goals are often used for personal development, while OKR is a goal-setting system for teams and organizations, popularized by companies like Google.
  • SMART Goals vs. OKR vs. MBOs: Management by Objectives (MBO) is a strategic management tool that aligns management with employees. OKR is an evolved version that breaks silos and is used at a larger organizational scale. MBO focuses on clear objectives, while OKR introduces aggressive and aspirational goals.
  • OKR and 10x Thinking: OKR, especially in combination with 10x thinking (moonshot thinking), is used by companies like Google to set ambitious and transformative goals. It encourages unconventional solutions, experimentation, and breakthrough thinking.

Connected Agile Frameworks


AIOps is the application of artificial intelligence to IT operations. It has become particularly useful for modern IT management in hybridized, distributed, and dynamic environments. AIOps has become a key operational component of modern digital-based organizations, built around software and algorithms.

Agile Methodology

Agile started as a lightweight development method compared to heavyweight software development, which is the core paradigm of the previous decades of software development. By 2001 the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was born as a set of principles that defined the new paradigm for software development as a continuous iteration. This would also influence the way of doing business.

Agile Project Management

Agile project management (APM) is a strategy that breaks large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. In the APM methodology, each project is completed in small sections – often referred to as iterations. Each iteration is completed according to its project life cycle, beginning with the initial design and progressing to testing and then quality assurance.

Agile Modeling

Agile Modeling (AM) is a methodology for modeling and documenting software-based systems. Agile Modeling is critical to the rapid and continuous delivery of software. It is a collection of values, principles, and practices that guide effective, lightweight software modeling.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

Business Model Innovation

Business model innovation is about increasing the success of an organization with existing products and technologies by crafting a compelling value proposition able to propel a new business model to scale up customers and create a lasting competitive advantage. And it all starts by mastering the key customers.

Continuous Innovation

That is a process that requires a continuous feedback loop to develop a valuable product and build a viable business model. Continuous innovation is a mindset where products and services are designed and delivered to tune them around the customers’ problem and not the technical solution of its founders.

Design Sprint

A design sprint is a proven five-day process where critical business questions are answered through speedy design and prototyping, focusing on the end-user. A design sprint starts with a weekly challenge that should finish with a prototype, test at the end, and therefore a lesson learned to be iterated.

Design Thinking

Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.


DevOps refers to a series of practices performed to perform automated software development processes. It is a conjugation of the term “development” and “operations” to emphasize how functions integrate across IT teams. DevOps strategies promote seamless building, testing, and deployment of products. It aims to bridge a gap between development and operations teams to streamline the development altogether.

Dual Track Agile

Product discovery is a critical part of agile methodologies, as its aim is to ensure that products customers love are built. Product discovery involves learning through a raft of methods, including design thinking, lean start-up, and A/B testing to name a few. Dual Track Agile is an agile methodology containing two separate tracks: the “discovery” track and the “delivery” track.

Feature-Driven Development

Feature-Driven Development is a pragmatic software process that is client and architecture-centric. Feature-Driven Development (FDD) is an agile software development model that organizes workflow according to which features need to be developed next.

eXtreme Programming

eXtreme Programming was developed in the late 1990s by Ken Beck, Ron Jeffries, and Ward Cunningham. During this time, the trio was working on the Chrysler Comprehensive Compensation System (C3) to help manage the company payroll system. eXtreme Programming (XP) is a software development methodology. It is designed to improve software quality and the ability of software to adapt to changing customer needs.

Lean vs. Agile

The Agile methodology has been primarily thought of for software development (and other business disciplines have also adopted it). Lean thinking is a process improvement technique where teams prioritize the value streams to improve it continuously. Both methodologies look at the customer as the key driver to improvement and waste reduction. Both methodologies look at improvement as something continuous.

Lean Startup

A startup company is a high-tech business that tries to build a scalable business model in tech-driven industries. A startup company usually follows a lean methodology, where continuous innovation, driven by built-in viral loops is the rule. Thus, driving growth and building network effects as a consequence of this strategy.


Kanban is a lean manufacturing framework first developed by Toyota in the late 1940s. The Kanban framework is a means of visualizing work as it moves through identifying potential bottlenecks. It does that through a process called just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing to optimize engineering processes, speed up manufacturing products, and improve the go-to-market strategy.

Rapid Application Development

RAD was first introduced by author and consultant James Martin in 1991. Martin recognized and then took advantage of the endless malleability of software in designing development models. Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a methodology focusing on delivering rapidly through continuous feedback and frequent iterations.

Scaled Agile

Scaled Agile Lean Development (ScALeD) helps businesses discover a balanced approach to agile transition and scaling questions. The ScALed approach helps businesses successfully respond to change. Inspired by a combination of lean and agile values, ScALed is practitioner-based and can be completed through various agile frameworks and practices.

Spotify Model

The Spotify Model is an autonomous approach to scaling agile, focusing on culture communication, accountability, and quality. The Spotify model was first recognized in 2012 after Henrik Kniberg, and Anders Ivarsson released a white paper detailing how streaming company Spotify approached agility. Therefore, the Spotify model represents an evolution of agile.

Test-Driven Development

As the name suggests, TDD is a test-driven technique for delivering high-quality software rapidly and sustainably. It is an iterative approach based on the idea that a failing test should be written before any code for a feature or function is written. Test-Driven Development (TDD) is an approach to software development that relies on very short development cycles.


Timeboxing is a simple yet powerful time-management technique for improving productivity. Timeboxing describes the process of proactively scheduling a block of time to spend on a task in the future. It was first described by author James Martin in a book about agile software development.


Scrum is a methodology co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.

Scrum Anti-Patterns

Scrum anti-patterns describe any attractive, easy-to-implement solution that ultimately makes a problem worse. Therefore, these are the practice not to follow to prevent issues from emerging. Some classic examples of scrum anti-patterns comprise absent product owners, pre-assigned tickets (making individuals work in isolation), and discounting retrospectives (where review meetings are not useful to really make improvements).

Scrum At Scale

Scrum at Scale (Scrum@Scale) is a framework that Scrum teams use to address complex problems and deliver high-value products. Scrum at Scale was created through a joint venture between the Scrum Alliance and Scrum Inc. The joint venture was overseen by Jeff Sutherland, a co-creator of Scrum and one of the principal authors of the Agile Manifesto.

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