25 December 2013

The problem with SMART goals


Someone came up with the idea for SMART goals. Who ever it was is not really important, all you really could say is thank you for this smart idea.
If you look superficially at what SMART stands for you get the feeling it is a rather smart trick to create motivated coworkers or employees. If you look again and again and let go of the idea that you need to motivate others you see a problem with SMART.

What does SMART mean

What does it stand for

The first person who came up with SMART had a great idea. As an acronym SMART stands for:

  • Specific and measurable
  • Motivational
  • Acceptable
  • Realistic
  • Timely
However does using this acronym to create goals not create motivating goals. Because realistic, acceptable, timely, specific and measurable goals motivate. The problem begins with who is going to find the goals realistic, acceptable, timely and specific. Is it the person that is going to realize the goals or the person who is setting the goals.
If the person that is setting the goal the one that decides if the goal is SMART, you probably get in to a big problem. Because how can you be sure that your goal is SMART for the person that is going to realize the goal.
If the person that has to achieve the goal is the one that decides if a goal is SMART, you get into another problem. Will he or she choose a goal that is challenging enough to be motivating or will he or she choose a goal that is so easy to achieve that he is not challenged or motivated.

Motivating SMART goals

SMART is motivating

So when setting SMART goals you need to know the person who is going to achieve those goals. Because you need to know what that persons finds realistic, acceptable, timely and specific.
For example a well organized person with lots of experience in a certain field will find a goal that is so specific that there is nothing left to the imagination completely unmotivating. Where as a person who just is going to do something for the first time, will find a specific measurable, realistic, acceptable, timely goal motivating even challenging.

You could say SMART goals are not defined by what you want to achieve but by whom they are going to be achieved. So you need to know the person who is going to realize those SMART goals. Which means you need to know what that person is capable of.


If one needs to learn how to make SMART goals

If he or she has the competencies needed to be able to realize the goal, you can make it less specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic and timely. You could even tell this person to set his or her own goals if you tell them when you expect the result. They will probably tell you if it is acceptable and realistic. However if the person lacks the experience or even the competencies how will this person decide if a goal is specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic and timely.

So for someone lacking the competency to set SMART goals you need to create a double layered SMART goal. The first layer is about the goal you want to reach and the second layer is about the goal of building the competency to create SMART goals.

But how would you create such a double layered SMART goal?

SMART goals

How to create them

The acronym SMART is so smart it is almost self explainatory. But only if you are able to formulate goals. For example, if I know what is needed to be able to bake a cake I can set myself a SMART goal.
So I want to bake a simple cake for tea time, because I would like to eat some cake with my tea. Off course this goal is not complete. Becase I do not know if it is realistic and timely. Maybe it is three o’clock in the afternoon when I come up with this goal and I still need to by all the ingredients to make a cake. Now my goal is unrealistic and not timely, eventhough I might know how to make a cake. So part of knowing how to set SMART goals is knowing how much time it takes and what is needed to realize them. So you could make the following table:
So knowing what you need, when you need it, how you use it and for how long is as important as being able to set goals. You could even say that being competent is more important than being able to set goals. But that off course is not true. To succeed with a competency you need to have a goal. Even if that goal might just be having fun with your competency.

So what do you need to know to create SMART goals?

Knowing to create SMART goals

Because SMART motivates

As I said before to be able to set SMART goals one needs to be competent in the field or fields that are needed to reach a SMART goal. If you want to eat cake at tea time, you will not only need to be able to bake a cake or know someone who can bake cake. You will also need to be able to read the clock and know what time tea time is and how long it takes to prepare and bake a cake, so you can plan when to start baking. You will need to have money to buy or have access to all products needed to bake cake. You will need to know how an oven works or have an oven or know which baker sells the cake you want to eat at tea time.
So setting a timely, realistic, acceptable, motivating and specific goal is not enough, you need knowledge, understanding, time, means and the will to achieve that SMART goal.

Now is knowledge these days not the most difficult element to gain. Go to a search engine, type in Cake and you will find ten of thousands if not hundreds of thousands recipes of cake. Some recipes might even tell you what oven to use and where to get your ingredients. They will all tell you how much time it will take. Do another search for tea time and you can calculate when to start baking your cake, as you now know how long it takes to bake a cake and when you want to eat it.

Learn to create SMART goals

The easy way

First think of a goal you want to realize. A simple goal could be:
Eat some cake.
Next you can ask yourself:
What do I need to do to eat my cake?
The next thing you should think of is:
What do I need to know to be able to eat cake?
Then you should ask yourself:
When do I want to eat that cake?
Maybe you could even ask:
How much cake do I want to eat?
You could also ask yourself:
How much time do I want to take to make the cake I want to eat?
Another question could be:
How much do I want to spend on baking my cake?
If you put these answers together you might get the following goal:
This afternoon at tea time, I want to eat two thin slices of cake I made of flower, eggs, sugar and butter taking me no more then 90 minutes to make for a price of no more then five dollars.
So the easy way of formulating SMART goals is asking questions, questions like:
  • What do I want to do? (Goal)
  • When do I want to do that? (Timely)
  • How much time do I have? (Realistic; Timely)
  • How much money do I want to spend? (Motivating; Acceptable; Realistic)
  • What do I need to realize what I want to do? (Specific; Acceptable; Realistic)
  • How much do I want to do, what I want to do? (Specific; Acceptable, Realistic; Timely)
  • How much time do I want to spend on realizing what I want to do? (Specific; Motivating; Acceptable; Realistic; Timely)
  • Do I know how to realize what I want to do? (Specific; Motivating; Acceptable; Realistic)
  • Do I know people who could help me realize what I want to do? (Specific; Motivating; Acceptable; Realistic)
Once you have answered the necessary questions you can create a SMART goal. Because a SMART goals tells you specifically what you want, when you want it, if the time, money and means you need are acceptable and realistic and if you can do it in a timely fashion, so you keep motivated at reaching your goal.

Ending SMART

setting goals

So setting SMART goals needs two competencies. The first one is asking questions to find the information to make a goal specific, motivating, acceptable, realistic and timely. The second one is being able to evaluate the competency of the person or persons who are going to realize the SMART goal. Are they incompetent they need very specific, realistic and timely goals, to accept them and be motivated. If they are competent at realizing goals the SMART goal can be more general, but they still need to be informed about the time when the goal should be ready and they need to formulate acceptable and realistic activities to realize the goal that was set. Which means you can not ask a baker to bake a cake in 90 minutes at a price of five dollars if he does not have eggs, suger, flower, butter and an oven. That would be an unrealistic, unacceptable, specific, timely but demotivating goal.

So the problem with SMART is not that it is such a handy acronym, the problem is that you need to be competent to use it or need help from someone who is competent to realize that SMART goal you set.

The images in this lens

were made by

Basketball hoops by Normyo

24 March 2009

Leadership and reward

How important being rewarded is, becomes clear when we look at its influence on human behavior. Which the credit crunch from 2008 makes clear. Then it became clear that loan officers had created bad debt, because they were rewarded for every mortgage they created.

When it comes to rewards, the first that comes to mind is compensation, paid at the end of the month or the end of the year in money. Compensation is often combined with personnel benefits, which may not be directly valued in money, but they represent money. Next to compensation and benefits there are other forms of rewarding.
The first one that may come to mind is the reward received from the work done. This can be the feeling of accomplishment, when a job is done succesfully. Of the feeling of success when a job is ready. Or the feeling that the job was a learning opportunity.
A completely different form of rewarding is that of the recognition by others. This can be verbal. Or in the form of new projects or promotion.
An often overlooked form of rewarding is that which people feel when they are part of a group or team that is successful or is seen as successful.

So leaders have different means of rewarding themselves and others.

Effective rewarding
The most effective method of rewarding does not exist, because all humans experience different forms of rewarding and combinations of rewarding as pleasant. So there will be employees who like to get a large salary and great benefits. Where others would rather be rewarded with difficult projects and find the reward in successfully closing projects.

This difference in experience of rewarding, means that leaders need to search for the right combination of rewards for every single employee.

An important point when it comes to rewarding, that should not be forgetting, is that the stronger the emphasis on short term rewards, the faster employees will find ways to receive the reward. And that behavior is even strengthened by the example that they get.

So the effectiveness of a mix of rewards is also influenced by the example that leaders give.

For a leader this means making visible how he experiences the way he is rewarded. And this in itself is a reward for the employees, because the leader shows that he finds his employees important enough to make them part of his experience.

18 February 2009

Leadership and groups

Leadership is often seen as something that is part of a group. In corporations groups are a way of life. And leadership can be for the corporation as a whole or for subgroups. Subgroups are created when dividing the corporation into departments with specific tasks. But they can also be created for a specific temporary task.

Most organizations that grow beyond twenty persons, automatically divide themselves into specialist groups. Accounting, purchase and sales, cleaning, they are all part of the organization. Specialization has its advantage over generalization, when it comes to certain organizational tasks. These departments often doe not really need leadership. Especially when the members are highly specialized and highly trained. Often the specialists know exactly what to do and only need someone to keep them up to date with higher management and in contact with other departments.

Groups that are specially formed for a certain task often have need of internal leadership. But they also need external leadership, to support their work. Especially if the task has implications for the company policy or if it is to prepare change.

Internal leadership of groups is needed to make the group work efficient and effective. However this internal leadership does not necessarilly has to be filled by one person. Belbin showed that the success of a group is defined by the fulfillment of nine roles. In which one person can very well occupy two group roles.

The external leadership is needed to make it possible for the group to do its work. But also to let the groups work have effect. Without the external leadership the work the group has done could very well get lost in the politics of any organization that is larger than 50 members.

05 February 2009

Leadership and getting trained

Although it is often stated that leaders are born and not made, it is off course just the opposite. A born leader without the possibility to practice will never become a leader. Where a future leader with lots of chances to practice, automatically becomes a better leader.

Training leaders
The most important part of leadership is getting a chance to practice. If this practice is structured and formal or informal and unstructured does not matter. For many of todays leaders the rule was, that they encountered situaties in which they could develop there talents as a leader.

From the point of view of an organization, it is off course better to work structured at the development of future leaders. There is however a but attached to this method.

A however
The danger of training leaders is that they are trained for the present or the past, not for the future. It is possible to train for the future, but that takes a different approach to training, from what today is main stream. In the current economy most trainings are based on what we already know. The knowledge that is passed on, is based on the past or is current at the moment the leaderships position is to be taken. The knowledge is seldom based on the fact that the world changes.

Few future leaders following an official trainingprogram learn to gather knowledge to understand the future. Often the idea is, that this will happen by itself as one is busy learning. A second thought is that learning to gather knowledge and information automatically leads to understanding the current situation. That this a flawed idea was proven in 2008 by the economic crisis, that was caused when the mortgage industry collapsed.

So it takes more to make someone understand the information he has received or gathered himself in his current situation.

04 February 2009

Leadership and training 2

A leader has three ways in which he is involved with training. The first is his own training to become a leader. This is often a combination of informal and formal training. Secondly he is involved in the training of future leaders, to get them ready to take their position as a leader, when it is time for the leader to step down. Thirdly as part of the strategy of the organization. Here I am only going to talk about the training of leaders.

The standard method

Save a few companies, most companies choose to hunt and select their new leaders outside their organization. The choice is for proven leadership quality. That has two reasons. First you prevent jealous reactions of other managers, who did not make it into the leadership position. Second you have proof that the new leader can lead and can bear the lesser aspects of the function of leader.

The prevention of jealousy between managers is important to an organization, because jealousy can create adverse powers. The managers that were passed over, can start an internal war or use their position to undermine the new leader. And every internal resistance has negative effects on the effectiveness of an organization.

The advantage of the proof of leadership is that you prevent someone failing, because he was not ready for the leadership role. However the proof is off course only proof for the fact that the leader could lead the organization he left. It can never be proof, that he can lead the organization he is going to lead. Except off course is both organizations are identical to the last point.

The other approach

A different approach is the management development program for high potentials. A combination of training and development for employees who show potential to realise that potential.

These programs begin off course with the selection of the HiPo's, by their manager, a manager HRM or HRD or maybe even a manager MD and a manager high in the hierarchy of the organization, sometimes the current leader.

Next the HiPo's get to participate in all kinds of training and development, directed at realising their potential. Often this potential strands in a management position at middle management levels. Not because they lack potential, but because their are more people with potential, then positions for managers.

This approach often flounders at the possibility to practice with the new knowledge acquired during the MD program. An effect from that fact that training is something completely different from a working organization. A proper working MD program will try to make the training situation resemble the practice of the organization and will try to integrate the training into the practical organization.

22 December 2008

Leadership and courage

Courage is probably the most important talent a leader should have. How else can you have the guts to act differently from the group. Because that is what leadership is, an aberration. A leader is a single person, who does exactly what the group does not want: being different.

Courageous leadership
Achieving leadership can be done through two routes. The first is complete conviction of your leadership. You are the only one, who could be the leader. You could call this sociopathic leadership. You were born to be a leader and no one else is right. For this kind of leadership courage is not necessary. There is not even room for courage, because leadership is not feared. Leadership is the only logical conclusion of ones carrier.
The second form of achieving leadership is through love. First loving yourself as a human being. Using the principle that a human is good the way he is and perfection is not necessary. Second loving others as they are.
The leadership is not a logical conclusion, but a logical effect of the love you feel. And from this love for yourself, you feel love for others. You do not see your leadership as a necessity, but as a possibility to help others discover their love.
This kind of leadership takes courage. Because this type of leader recognizes human weakness and will experience fear during its leadership. Conquering this fear takes courage, because it needs trust, that those fears are unfounded.
This in contradiction to the sociopathic leader, who might feel fear, but will see it as completely irrational, because his leadership does not know any problems.

Developing courage
So the sociopathic leader has no need to for courage, because he does not know it. But the leader who took is task because of love, will need courage. Luckily it is not that difficult to develop courage, when you feel love, and if you live your life on the basis of love. The love you feel for yourself and others, will give you the power to address your task as a leader with courage.
So to develop courage, you must love yourself. And that means most of all knowing yourself. Knowing yourself with all your good en bad talents and look at them with love.

08 November 2008

Leadership and gulliblility

The worst a leader can happen is getting caught being gullible. Gullible does off course have a very negative connotation, as it means dumb trusting. The point however is, that to understand what is really asked, one has to know more about this world than possible. So one has to be gullible to be able to live in this world.

So it is impossible for a leader to prevent being used for his gullibility. Not only because it would make life a living hell. But also because it would that you could trust nobody. Which would end in the impossibility to work with anyone.

Off course trust and gullibility does not mean that you can not be interested in someone else. And maybe that is where the solution lies to prevent misuse of gullibility. Although interest is a form of gullibility. As you need to trust the other to answer your questions truthfully. Byt by asking questions, you lessen the possibility that the other will take advantage of your trust. Because unanswered questions point to a problem that needs to be research, so you can help finding a solution.