SMART Goals Are Not Always the Answer — Here’s Why

Morgan Province
February 13, 2024
SMART Goals Are Not Always the Answer — Here’s Why

If your SMART goals keep failing, it might be because SMART goals are too static to keep pace with your agile business. 

Don’t get me wrong, SMART goals are a good place to start. They give you precision and tell you what to achieve by when. But, they aren’t compelling or collaborative enough to move your team forward together.

You can address both of these problems by working as a team to run your goal through the HARD and FAST goal frameworks.

What is a HARD goal?

A HARD goal is Heartfelt, Animated, Required, and Difficult. The HARD method for setting a goal is best for visions, which is to say it helps you and each team member stay connected to your business’s mission, vision, and values. As your team meets to set goals for the upcoming year, have each person answer how the goal you are shaping is HARD for them.

“Company X will put 10,000 people in new jobs through skill training, coaching, placements, and positions on our team.”

If you were passionate about decreasing the unemployment rate in your hometown, that would be a HARD goal, right? HARD goals tap into your emotional core. They drive each person to achieve more significant feats, even when the tasks in front of you are difficult or mundane.

Related: How to Use Your Vision to Create Business Goals

HARD goals will inspire a team and give you an objective, but they alone are not enough to move your business forward. You need FAST goals.

You do not need magic to reach your business goals, but you do need a strong goal-setting process (and maybe coffee).

What is a FAST goal?

FAST goals are Frequently discussed, Ambitious, Specific, and Transparent. 

MIT Sloan’s School of Management, one of the first proponents of FAST goals, says they “help organizations improve along multiple dimensions at the same time.” How do FAST goals do this? How can your team do this?

First off, FAST goals prioritize collaboration from the very beginning. Making the goal transparent and frequently discussing the team’s progress keeps it top-of-mind and keeps the entire team accountable — from the CEO to the person you just hired last month. No more digging through your files before a performance review to find that goal you set five months ago; everyone is on the same page throughout the year.

Secondly, SMART goals tend to produce conservative targets, creating results you’d likely hit if you just do your job well (or a little better than normal). While a small goal may improve results, it won’t change your business. An ambitious goal requires a transformation to reach it, enabling you to innovate, disrupt, and scale. In other words, level up your goal and your team will level up to meet the challenge.

Now let’s run your ambitious goal through the SMART framework to make it specific (and measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). Figure out who is achieving what by when and how.

Set Goals that Work for You

All that said, you should choose the goal-setting framework that works best for you. If you have trouble reaching your goals, then it’s time to look at another method. Are you trying to establish larger overarching or visionary goals? Then maybe you should start with the HARD goals method. Are you a solopreneur who needs to set manageable goals? Then SMART goals are probably your best bet. Are you trying to set collaborative goals with a team or ambitious that require more accountability? Then FAST goals are the way to go. 

Setting goals is a critical step to accomplishment. But you have to make sure your goals match both where you want to go and how you want to get there.

Morgan Province
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