Search results

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Building towers and being ‘SMART’ about it!

Ask a 10 year old kid, what a goal is? Do you see him shaking his head? No? I am sure you hear him mention some generic words about mission, vision etcetera? In fact, I would wager 10 bucks that that would be the answer most of the grown-ups would give as well. I had an interesting class last week, where we were explained the concepts of these goals with a practical example. And how did we spice it up? We made it ‘IPL’ style where students were asked to bid on specific tower companies. Let us not get carried away by the fun part though. The important thing here is to understand how to set a goal. Clearly, that is the first thing a lot of people do. Without knowing how to do so, that is.

When the word SMART was used along with ‘goal’ I scratched my head in confusion. I did not have to be in an MBA class to know that a goal should be smart. But my confusion was short lived as I came to know that SMART actually was an acronym. Let us look at each of the individual letters and its corresponding expansion.

S – Specific:
                      ‘To generalize is to be an idiot’ - William Blake

This stresses the need for being specific while setting goals. A problem with a lot of goals is that they are extremely generic. Making a goal specific makes it more clear and unambiguous. The next question is how to make a goal specific.  A specific goal, would answer the 5 W questions:    What: What do I want to accomplish?
    Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
    Who: Who is involved?
    Where: Identify a location.
    Which: Identify requirements and constraints. 

In our tower building exercise, we were asked to give out a plan for our tower company and it was very obvious that our goals had to be specific. In such a case, a specific goal like 'I want to build a tower of 50 blocks in this particular location by a person named X with red bricks in order to impress people' is much more likely succeed than a generic goal like ‘I want to earn money’.

M- Measurable:

               "What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated."

                    U.S Federal judge, John E Jones sure knew what he was talking about, when he said this, about the importance of measurement. A goal definitely has to be measurable because unless the destination is not measurable, the progress can never be measured and improved upon. Measuring progress is supposed to help a team stay on track, reach its target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs it on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal.
A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:
·         How much?
·         How many?
·         How will I know when it is accomplished?
 In the tower building exercise, imagine how a goal like ‘I want to build tall towers’ would have sounded like! If, on the other hand, the goal is to build a tower 50 blocks high, the team would clearly be able to judge its progress and also judge how far it has to go.

A- Achievable:

                        The importance of a goal being achievable and attainable can’t be stressed enough. The policy of ‘Aim for the skies, you will atleast reach the clouds’ won’t work well with goal setting. This does not mean that the goal should be so easily achievable that the teams need not stretch them. An Achievable goal can be thought of as one which motivates the team and still doesn’t demotivate them by being daunting.
An attainable goal will usually answer the question:

  •  How: How can the goal be accomplished?
In the exercise, the goal which was deemed achievable was one which was consistent with the previous achievements in the same exercise in spite of being challenging. 

R- Relevant:

                             There was a funny example that I came across while looking up the importance of relevance in goal setting. Consider this: “Make 50 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by 2:00pm”. This goal definitely satisfies all the previous criteria for goal setting. But relevance comes into the picture when we pause to look at who has set this goal. Would this be relevant for a sportsperson? Relevance is extremely important for determining where the goal attainment would take the organization. The goal should be relevant in the context of the organization’s goals. Only if that is the case would the employees be motivated for achieving it. It is relevance that makes a goal worthwhile.

In the exercise, a goal of ‘Having the floor clean’ would not have been relevant.

T- Time bound:

                               The fifth criterion stresses the importance of grounding goals within a time frame, giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps a team focus their efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date. This part of the SMART goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in an organization. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.

A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:
     What can I do six months from now?
     What can I do six weeks from now?
     What can I do today?

Even our goals in the tower building activity required that we complete the activity within 20 minutes. Removing the concept of time from goals makes them lose their value.  

No comments:

Post a Comment