I spent 5 days last week exploring SMART Goals, those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, and how they can be applied to individual professional development needs. While SMART is not the only goal-setting framework available, it is likely the easiest to remember and thus has entered the organizational lexicon for how we build our goals. Who can argue with this easy process, especially as it has been embraced by nearly every human resource and organizational development team out there?

Well, not quite so fast.

Did you catch any of those unspoken assumptions at the end of my statement? Yeah, that’s it . . . nearly every human resource and organizational development team.

This week I will explore some of the challenges to the notion or application of SMART goals, and will begin with one of the most obvious, and thus easily overlooked, ones — organizational focus.

Take a moment and consider this . . .

However, before I embark on that one tomorrow, I invite you to take a moment and think about this with me.

That’s it, close your eyes, and think about the the general formula for developing SMART (professional) development goals or strategic goals or (gods forbid!) performance improvement goals, often following the “I will do ______ in order to ______ by ______.”

Does anything seem . . . off . . . about them? Does anything about them not feel right, or perhaps raise some questions to you? Perhaps when people mention, “It’s time for us to develop our goals, and we will use the SMART process for doing them,” your eyes glaze over or you have an immediate reaction?

That is what I am looking for.

If so, I would love to hear about them as a comment below. Don’t worry if you cannot make sense of them or otherwise are struggling to articulate what you mean . . . I am more interested if anything pops into your head about this, as it may help to process everything else I will write about this notion this coming week.

Looking forward to your input!

I help people navigate their learning needs and take informed action, so in many ways I live the world of SMART Goals every day with many levels of interest and influence. However, I know that many still find this difficult to work through on their own, due to having goal challenges for all sorts of reasons. If you find yourself struggling to write out or commit to your goals, I am happy to chat through a free 30-minute coaching consult. This is in itself often enough to help people clarify their direction and work through their stuck places, yet if you find you may want or need some ongoing support or accountability, I do offer that through my educational consulting or coaching work.


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About Me

Jeffrey M. Keefer, Ph.D., is an educational consultant, institutional researcher and accreditation officer in higher education, professor of research methodology, nonprofit capacity building and strategic planning consultant, talent development coach, spiritual life advisor (chaplain) at New York University, spiritual director, and Wikipedian.