Your Smart Goals Aren’t Smart Enough — 3 Ways Your Goals Can Be the SMART-est

Maybe your company has identified and communicated the high-level strategic and operational targets that are critical to achieving its long-term performance goals. As well, your departmental leaders and line managers can articulate and translate the organizational strategy and goals throughout their work teams, and every employee has an individual performance plan with specific assignments that follow a SMART goal format. If this process is familiar to your organization, you’ve established a foundational performance management best practice that’s supported by most high-performing organizations. But did you know that your SMART goals may not be smart enough? You need to focus on putting in place the SMART-EST goals to achieve the best possible outcomes for your organization’s success.

Boost your SMART goals by adding these three elements to achieve the SMART-ESTresults: 

1. Establish a baseline: For each goal, use objective data to establish a stake-in-the-ground metric to measure and compare performance over time.
2. Set targets: Establish mini-milestones to review performance and provide coaching and feedback so that performance remains aligned and on track.
3. Test: Review goals regularly for continued relevance, and adjust quality, quantity or time measures as needed to keep pace with strategic goals.
Goal setting represents an important aspect of the broader process of performance management. Managers collaborate with their employees to establish appropriately leveled goals that are aligned to the organization and within the employees’ span of control. While it’s common to develop SMART goals to coincide with the start of the organization’s fiscal calendar year, reviewing these goals shouldn’t be put on a shelf until it’s time for the annual performance appraisal process. Neglecting to adjust goals as the business changes can reduce the focus and structure they give to achieving strategic results.

There’s good reason to follow the SMART-EST goal-setting and review process. Companies that revise and update goals quarterly generate more than 30 percent greater impact from their performance management processes than those that simply adhere to an annual review.[1] To make the goal-setting and review process easier and more efficient for both managers and employees, consider implementing a performance management technology platform to track, realign and revise your SMART-EST goals as needed to keep pace with the changing needs of your business.

[1]Garr, Stacia. High-impact Performance Management: Part 1 — Designing a Strategy for Effectiveness. Bersin & Associates. August 2011. To purchase the report, visit