Goal-setting 101: Why SMART Goals are Important to Project Success

Goal-setting 101: Why SMART Goals are Important to Project Success

Goals can be an important factor in project success. But not every goal is created equal. Find out why it is essential for project managers to set SMART goals for their teams. To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by Brandeis University’s Masters Degree in Project Management program.

SMART Goal Setting

Through the power of goal setting, project managers can set objectives for their teams and watch them accomplish their mission. There is now a system in place where these goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. In other words, these goals are SMART. SMART is the name given to a specific method of goal setting that when used by project managers, coupled with the findings of other relevant research, enhances the likelihood of project success.

Benefits of SMART Goals

By being strategic and setting goals in a SMART fashion, project managers can clearly outline their expectations by keeping them out in the open. In so doing, they increase the probability of employees and team members being successful by up to 70%, thanks to regular check-ins, updates and group accountability. This statistic is supported by the recent research of Dr. Gail Matthews. Research in general further proposes that project managers and their teams can (and should) utilize the effectiveness of public commitment by achieving a target, writing down one’s goals, and being accountable through SMART goal setting. The benefits therein include increased focus, increased motivation, and improved group cohesion and cooperation. An increased sense of worth among employees — because they are able to quantify their progress — has also proven invaluable to changing the atmosphere and increasing both productivity and goal achievement.

As employee performance improves, project managers are likely to overcome common managerial pitfalls like micromanaging, poor communication, lack of inspiration and commitment, and scattered focus. SMART goals help project managers effectively create the focus and drive that employees and organizations need to constantly operate as high performers. High-performing organizations successfully complete an average of over 80% of their projects.

With SMART goal setting, the organization will undoubtedly function better, because everyone knows exactly what the priorities are and what is expected of them. Through SMART goal setting, priorities become clear. There is a clear and specific focus that employees of all levels are committed to. Along with clarity and focus, the motivation of being able to measure progress in light of milestones achieved, further bolsters the positive effects and total results of SMART goal setting. As employee motivation increases, corporate incentive programs can inspire employee loyalty by up to 66%, plus sales, profits and productivity by 50%, 27% and 38% respectively.

Setting SMART goals is effective in turning around a negative working environment as well as profit margin. This works because SMART goals directly tackle and stand in juxtaposition to the primary component that makes organizations fall apart and employees leave. That component is: purpose. SMART goals give an organization and its employees purpose. It is this purpose — the point of it all—that inspires the cultivation of all the other components that are needed to build successful projects, employees and organizations. Purpose inspires passion, loyalty, drive, productivity, high performance, clear and open communication, rewards, structure and more.

Why Projects Fail

On the other hand, goals are not achieved and projects fail because of the same commonly overlooked component: purpose. When goals do not support the purpose of the business or the purpose of the business is unclear, there is nothing for employees or managers to get behind. There is a lack of focus, lack of commitment and general lack of interest. The spirit of open and clear communication is lost, as there is no purpose for communication themes and directives to be centered around. The result is micromanagement, misplaced priorities, no inspiration, inconsistencies, failure to plan, poor resource management, and setting unattainable goals on the part of management. Disorder flows from there, and employees unfortunately follow suit.

If project managers want to see their margins increase and their organizations run like well-oiled machines, they must become SMART about goal setting. The best part of this turnaround? It can start the moment project managers begin to outline goals, which are assessed considering what SMART goals require and are shared with employees and team members. Thereafter, project managers can begin to help their teams focus, continue to prioritize growing to-do lists, get the most important tasks done and stay on track to meet general objectives.

If project managers can learn to set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound, more projects will be successful and project managers will be able to lead their teams with greater effectiveness. The good example of using SMART goals will set the tone for the rest of the team and organization. Goals will be more attainable (as demonstrated by the increase in project completions). Additionally, consistency, inspiration, clear priorities, proper resource management and cooperation will be ingrained in the employment culture, becoming the new buzzwords in their organizations. For project managers who set SMART goals, project success will become the new organizational trend.

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