Develop Project Management SMART Objectives

Published Categorized as Project Management
smart objectives
smart objectives

“There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives”  by George T. Doran was the first reference of the term in the November 1981 issue of Management Review. It focused on the importance of objectives and the difficulty of setting them. The first use of the SMART objectives criteria was by Peter Drucker in his management by objectives concept.

SMART is an acronym, giving criteria in the setting of objectives, for example in personal development, project management or employee performance management. Usually letter S and M refer to specific and measurable, but the other letters have meant different things to different authors. Also, additional letters have been added by some authors.

Ideally speaking, each corporate, department, team and individual objective should be:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify your progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result can be achieved.

Extended smart objectives versions


  • Evaluated and reviewed
  • Evaluate consistently and recognize mastery


  • Track able and agreed

Notice that these criteria don’t say that all objectives must be quantified on all levels of management. In certain situations it is not realistic to attempt quantification, particularly in staff middle-management positions. Practicing managers and corporations can lose the benefit of a more abstract objective in order to gain quantification. It is the combination of the objective and its action plan that is really important. Therefore serious management should focus on both and not just the objective.

Defining smart objectives

You want your goals to be specific. If you are ambiguous in defining something, then you will have a hard time in understanding what it is you are trying to plan and commit to. This criterion stresses on that. To make your objectives specific, you should consider asking some of the following questions:

  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal
  • Who: Who is involved?
  • Where: Identify a location.
  • Which: Identify requirement and constraints.

This criterion stressed the need for defining concrete criteria for measuring progress towards the achievement of the goal. Think of it like this, if a goal is not measurable it is impossible to ascertain if you are making real progress towards successfully accomplishing that goal. Measuring progress will help a team stay on track, reach its target dates and experience the exhilaration of achievement that will spur it on to a continued effort to reach the ultimate goal.

A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?
  • Indicators should be quantifiable

Achievable is pretty straight forward. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.

You can attain almost any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them. When you list your goals you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them.

To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be.

Your goal is probably realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished. Additional ways to know if your goal is realistic is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past or ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to accomplish this goal.

A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force. Some of the hardest jobs you ever accomplished actually seem easy simply because they were a labor of love.

But make sure that every goal represents substantial progress.

A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to lose 10 kg, when do you want to lose it by? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, “by May 1st”, then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal

You want your objectives to be SMART objectives. You want to be able to envision yourself in that role, you want to be able to make a specific plan of how to get there, and commit to that plan.

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By Alex Puscasu

I am a Project Management practitioner with more than 5 years experience in hardware and software implementation projects. Also a bit of a geek and a great WordPress enthusiast. I hope you enjoy the content, and I encourage you to share your knowledge with the world.