Archive for August, 2012



One of the most widely used and powerful tools for effective goal setting is the SMART model, first described by G. T. Nolan in a 1981 article published in Management Review and later popularized by Paul Meyer in his booklet, Attitude is Everything.

SMART is an acronym, with each letter describing a key quality of any effective goal:

  • Specific means that the goal will clearly state what your team will achieve and how.
  • Measurable means that the goal will have a specific marker by which you can know if you’ve succeeded.  This is usually a number or a percentage increase in some standard of performance. If my goal were to become a competent runner, I might, for example, set a goal of completing a 5k race
  • Attainable (or Achievable) means that you can picture the steps you would need to take to get there from here. Using the running example, it means that I can see myself buying a good pair of running shoes, finding a place to run, and setting aside a regular time every few days to practice.
  • Realistic means that I can picture the end goal and it feels reasonable to me.  If, for example, I’d set my sites on running a marathon, well… I can tell you that just wouldn’t happen for me. A 5k though? That I can see myself doing.
  • Time-bound means that we give ourselves a date by which we will achieve the goal.  For my running example, that might be the end of the year.

There’s more than just using the SMART model to setting good goals, however.

It is important that goals also meet the needs of others, that they are desired. Your goals should be important not only to you, but to, your team, your senior management, your company, and even other stakeholders such as other companies, strategic partners, and even the community at large. We refer to this idea when we say that your team’s goals should be “In Service Of” other, higher-level goals your company has. If, for example, your company is very focused on excellent customer service, then every part of that company would want goals which support that aim. A marketing department, for example, might have the responsibility to build an easier-to-use customer website, and the IT department might have a goal of 99.99% up time for that site.  All of this would be in service of maintaining the company’s reputation for excellent customer service. It also helps to ensure that the various departments are aligned to the same mission.

Most companies who work with SMART goals stop there.  SMART goals are very powerful, and companies that use them clearly have mature goal-setting processes.  However, we recommend an additional step:  Validate your SMART goals by making sure you can TRUST them.

The TRUST principles are components of a model designed to ensure that SMART goals will actually get you and your team where you want to go. It does this by reviewing the key needs of the people and teams for whom the goals are set.

TRUST, too, is an acronym, and stands for Transparent, Retrievable, Upwardly-compatible, Supported and Team-oriented.

  • Transparent goals are honest. As managers, we don’t want to set artificial targets, or have some “secret” target for our team that we want them to hit even though we’ve set the “public” target a bit higher.  We always want the goals to be transparent.
  • Retrievable means that the goals will be visible to everyone, and often. Too many times we’ve seen goals that get lost in an email folder or, worse, a file folder, leading to team members who can’t remember what they’re supposed to achieve.  The goals should be “front and center.”
  • Upwardly Compatible is another way of saying that the goals should be “in service of” the higher-level corporate goals, those that are set further up in the hierarchy.  This, as we’ve emphasized, is very important, as it ensures alignment through the company.
  • Supported means that the team has all they need to do the job. If technology is required, they can get it. If training is needed, it’s in the budget.  If temporary help is required during crunch times, it’s available.  The entire corporate ecosystem—including other departments on whom your team relies—is behind the effort.
  • Team-oriented means that the goals are designed around mutual success; when one person succeeds it helps everyone else to succeed.

SMART goals you can TRUST are an important element in any goal-setting program. Having specific, defined and honest outcomes is, we believe, one of the keys to effective teams and effective leadership.

To see a video slide show on this topic, please take a look at SMART Goals You Can TRUST, on the CharneyCoach YouTube Channel.  And for any further information or questions, please feel free to contact us through this website.