Performance Management

What Are SMART Goals?

January 2, 2020
March 8, 2024
Lattice Team

The SMART goals formula is commonly associated with Peter Drucker’s management by objectives concept. SMART goals encourage employees to use specific objectives to detail how a goal will be accomplished.

Set SMART goals by writing them in a way that answers the following criteria:

  • Specific: Does the goal have specific means and ends?
  • Measurable: Can the goal be measured? How?
  • Actionable/Achievable: What are the specific actions that will lead to this goal? What do you need to do to accomplish it?
  • Relevant/Realistic: Is this goal relevant to your job duties, team, and company? Is it based on factors that are under your control?
  • Time-bound: What is the time period? Does it depend on a deadline or target date, or is it on a regular schedule?  

Setting SMART goals helps you dive into the details, building a sense of urgency. While it’s great for employees to follow broad mission statements, lack of specificity means there’s no way of ensuring goals align with business targets. The SMART goal approach helps everyone from managers to individual contributors know what they need to do.

For more context, we’ve put together a few examples of how the SMART goals can give direction to otherwise vague objectives.


Scenario 1: Get the company to use SMART goals.

Specific: Teach managers how to set SMART goals and get them to show direct reports how to do the same. Managers and employees will collaborate to set goals so both have clear expectations regarding what success looks like. This will also help employees understand their performance plan goals.

Measurable: Use a performance management system like Lattice to track employee goals. This will help managers ensure they and their direct reports are on the same page. Lattice also has automated reminders to encourage employees to regularly update their goals.

Attainable: Doing this after a review and encouraging managers to teach their employees will help you build a workable action plan with target dates. SMART goals build a sense of urgency and employees feel they can start right away.

Relevant: Setting these type of goals will make your company more productive, motivated, and engaged. Employee engagement is important to the success of the business.

Time-bound: Tell managers to check in and renew their direct reports’ goals by the end of the quarter. Whether you’re at a startup or larger company, we suggest ongoing goal setting throughout the year as a means of encouraging employee engagement.

“Ahead of performance reviews, teach managers how to set SMART goals and encourage them to show their direct reports. Use software like Lattice to track goals and help managers and employees own their performance targets. Encourage managers to check in with employees at the end of the quarter.”

Scenario 2:
Read more books.

Measurable: Read at least two novels per month and keep track of your progress in a journal.

Spend less time on social media so you’ll have more time for reading. You can put books on hold at the library, including ebooks — which you’ll be able to read on your phone during your commute.

Reading more books could contribute to my long-term goals of greater happiness and fulfilling my insatiable need for knowledge.

This personal goal concludes at the end of the year.

“Read two novels every month. Borrow books (both physical and ebooks) from the library. Use less social media, turning to books instead. Keep track of the books you read in a journal so you can review progress at the end of the year.”

Scenario 3:
Work on my time management skills.

Specific: Set achievable goals and make deadlines with realistic timeframes that you can deliver on for your projects.

Measurable: Set a date for a project and identify the things that prevent you from hitting deadlines. What are available resources that you’re not tapping into? Are you spending too much time on Slack? Examine that period of time and see what’s getting in the way.

Attainable: Adjust your schedule based on what you learn. You might find that it’s more realistic to meet deadlines if give yourself more time. If you learn that you’re being pulled into tasks or projects that are not the best use of your time, reprioritize.

Relevant: Knowing how you use your time will help you, your team, and the business at large meet goals. It will also help your case for a promotion or raise during your next performance review.

Time-bound: When you’re setting target dates, how do you use that time period? Check in after the project ends to see how you managed your time, and use that data to inform your goal setting for your next project.

“Improve time management by experimenting with deadlines and incorporating strategic planning into creating timelines for work projects. Take note of what gets in your way and what helps you finish your work on time. Figure out how this information can help you determine what deadlines are realistic for your next projects.”

Keep in mind that SMART goals can work for individuals as well as group projects. Whether you’re looking to grow professionally or even personally, this approach can help you see your goals in a new light.

To see how Lattice makes setting and tracking goals a breeze, sign up for an account or ask to see our platform in action.