You may hear a lot of talk about SMART goals and then see lots of discussions (and possibly argument) afterward. The topic really gets under people’s skin.
First of all, let me admit that goal setting is NOT my specific area of expertise but I have taught it as part of Leadership and Management courses and I have come across many people who have struggled with the concept. I, therefore, have a reasonably logical argument as to why SMART goals are rubbish.
I can hear the howls now, but SMART goals are not possible. Remember what SMART stands for? T is the problem here. Goals cannot be associated with a moment in time. The issue is that we confuse goals with objectives. Objectives can be SMART but the question is, are SMART objectives good?
They may very well work for some people but what about the others? If you think in a linear fashion (I don’t and many creative people don’t either) then compartmentalising things and sticking labels on them just does not work. The concept does not work and neither do most of the recognised ways of writing them down (to do lists, Gantt charts, network diagrams, etc).
If you work like this then you might try creating a story and a storyboard. Think of it a bit like a train or a bus journey with timetabled stops at certain places (although the journey may meander a little).
This is all very well, I hear you say but where is this compelling reason to not use SMART as a way of getting things done. Well the real reason lies in human nature. We like to achieve things so many of us do not actually set objectives that stretch us. We set objectives that we can easily achieve. We can then reward ourselves and spend time telling everyone how much stuff we have to do when in fact we have set objectives which are far too easy.
Ease of achievement is also the main reason why many schools no longer teach children about SMART goals (or should I say objectives?). So, what is the latest thinking? How do we move forward?
The answer lies in massive goals. These really are massive not just big!
Imagine being told by Pharaoh that you had to build the Great Pyramid of Giza (image helpfully supplied above). You would not just go to B&Q and get a few bags of quick-drying cement or have a lorryload of bricks delivered by a builders merchant.
No, this would require considerable thought, considerable stretch, and motivation (although the threat of death might do that too).
Why all this Pyramid talk? Well, this is the key to attaining those massive goals.
Forget a moment about the hidden chambers and other wonders, let us focus on this enormous structure. How on earth could we build it? Think about how we might draw a pyramid.
There is the triangle that forms the outline and then rows of slab-like shapes that make up the inside.
Let me suggest that your massive goal, whatever it is, sits right at the top of this pyramid. Immediately below that are the last things that must be in place before you attain your goals. And the row below that contains the things that must be in place before these …… and so on.
So, we start from the bottom. These stones are objectives. Make them SMART if you want but please don’t make them too easy. Tick them off as you go and when you get to the top you should have achieved something really massive.
This works at many levels. For instance, we are building, working from the bottom up, have a funnel (of sorts) and we can focus only on the things that help us achieve our goal.
And finally, it makes a great picture on a whiteboard or flip chart that we can tick off of colour in.