Last week I introduced the topic of SMART goals and mentioned that my next post would explore how the S in SMART can be an amazing tool for defining and achieving long term strategic goals in addition to shorter term goals. I’ve been using SMART goals on and off for about 2 years now. At first I was pretty short sighted in my use of the SMART tool. I’m taking a few classes on leadership coaching now (more on that in a future blog) and a recent class conversation helped me see how valuable SMART can be in the strategic planning process.
Let me explain why and how.
The T in SMART stands for time specific and my experience says that most people pick goals that have T’s measured in days, weeks, or perhaps months. But let’s think about strategic planning and goals from a high level.
The Wikipedia entry for strategic planning says the following and heck if it’s in Wikipedia it MUST be true. Right? :)
“In order to determine where it is going, the organization needs to know exactly where it stands, then determine where it wants to go and how it will get there. The resulting document is called the "strategic plan."
Where do you want to go? That’s core to the process of setting strategy whether you are talking about strategic goals for your business or for your personal or professional life as an individual. Where do you want to go? What does success look like? How will you know that you have achieved success? Is the goal possible? Does the goal matter? When will the goal happen?
It turns out that SMART goal setting can be a powerful tool for defining strategic goals if the T timeframe is pushed out far enough. I’ve come to believe that many strategic goals fail simply because they are vague.
I suspect the following goal may resonate with many L.E.A.P. readers.
“I want to retire early and be financially independent”.
Sounds great. I sort of, kind of, managed my personal and professional life around that goal for 2 decades. But you know what? The goal as stated above is lousy. It’s not specific and the timeline is vague. Therefore it’s not measureable. Is it relevant or attainable? Beats me. I don’t really even know what the goal is? Do you? But I’ll bet many readers have goals that are similar. A long term goal that we think we care a lot about, but that we haven’t taken the time to truly define. That’s not SMART.
Strategic planning in business is often just as generic and boils down to vague statements of ‘We want to be really successful and be the best at what we do’. Phooey on that. That sentiment might create a tag line. It doesn’t create a strategic goal.
Long term SMART goals aren’t magic wands. You can’t wave them and then POOF you will have success a decade from now. And it’s important to remember that your long term strategic goal probably needs to be walked backwards in a way where you can build upon numerous other SMART goals that are shorter in nature. Be smart. Decide where you want to go.
P.S. With all of that said; I’ve heard it said that the best way to make God laugh is to tell him your plans. So don’t be shocked if you need to visit your long term SMART goals from time to time. They will evolve and change. That’s natural. I encourage you to the journey not just the finish line and winners circle.