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If you’re struggling to communicate with employees effectively, your problems might stem from a lack of precise goals rather than insufficient soft skills.
One of the best ways to create a good baseline for a project is to use SMART goals. Project management relies on proper planning to get the project underway, and it’s those with vague objectives that fail from the start.
This article will discuss how SMART goals can improve projects by tackling them in smaller, easy-to-digest chunks.
What are SMART Goals?
SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.” These five concepts can turn a vague task into a set of precise guidelines to follow for optimal results.
By using SMART goals as a part of your leadership strategy, you can better allocate tasks and promote good personal and professional growth habits. Here’s a rough overview of how these concepts relate to one another and what makes them uniquely potent in driving up performance.
By focusing on a single task inside a broader goal, you can devote more time and effort to fixing it rather than brainstorming its prerequisites.
If you have a vague task, you can divide it into multiple SMART goals by treating each component as a separate milestone. Specificity often means answering the questions “Who?” “What?” “When?” “Where?” and “Why?” for the concept.
One of the easiest ways to get lost in a project is to have no way to measure progress or success. By setting clear guidelines on what constitutes a task and its relation to the overall goal, you can have a more transparent mission overview.
Some plans are easy to measure by using things like internal tracking software or checklists. Others might require a broader or vaguer metric for success.
By focusing on things you can do now, you can start imagining the possibilities and methods necessary to achieve them. One of the quickest ways to kill motivation and procrastinate is to set unattainable objectives that would require leaps and bounds.
However, achievable goals are much easier to outline and measure, and they won’t require too much time away from your other duties.
Relevancy ensures that the goal aligns with your long-term plans or personal values. In most cases, this just means sticking to the task at hand rather than straying too far from your original goal.
By setting a clear deadline for the task, you are less likely to procrastinate and are more motivated to tackle it head-on. Some SMART goals take just weeks to accomplish, while others can take years, depending on their complexity and scope. Therefore, time constraints directly influence achievability.
When these five factors are combined, it becomes easy to distinguish vague plans from SMART goals.
Why are SMART Goals Important for Project Management?
One of the significant challenges project managers encounter is dealing with vague or undefined goals, leading to project creep. This is when clients tack on additional demands after the schedule, budget, and deadline are agreed upon, significantly changing the feasibility of a project.
Project creep requires both clear expectations and proper collaborative planning to be dealt with effectively.
Project management capabilities are directly related to your ability to create long-term plans, organize them into smaller goals, and accomplish them effectively.
By using SMART goals, project management executives can turn an overloaded project into meaningful and orderly tasks. This is done by dividing it into smaller chunks that have clear and concise wording, and that can be adapted on the go more easily without disrupting the whole project.
Another way to improve project management capabilities is by working directly within the company to improve communication and morale. SMART goals are a straightforward way to build better habits, work practices, and a stable foundation for professional and personal growth.
11 SMART Goal Examples for Project Management
1. Find New Collaborative Software
“To improve communication with current, upcoming, and potential clients, I will investigate new collaborative software technologies. By implementing these tools, we can reduce communication delays and improve onboarding efforts. The measure of success will be a decrease in response time to clients within the next three months.”
S: The goal uses precise wording on implementing new collaboration or communication tools to improve response times.
M: You can measure the plan’s efficiency by tracking the time it takes between client interaction or feedback and team responses.
A: This is a very achievable goal if you consider the reduction in company-to-client response time as the sole indicator of success.
R: If you reduce the time it takes to respond to the client effectively, you can improve overall efficiency and decrease the number of redundant or follow-up requests.
T: The time constraint for this project is three months, which should provide enough time for research, testing, and implementation.
2. Create a Dedicated Channel for Each Client
“To improve clarity, I will separate projects based on the clients and team members working on those projects. To achieve this, I will create new communication channels in existing collaborative tools and track communication responses. The goal is to create a channel for each major client within the month.”
S: The goal explicitly states the need for improved project-based communication rather than team-wide one.
M: Progress can be measured by tracking how many communication channels are open and which ones are used for what client. Additionally, you can track member communication frequency and overall participation.
A: This is an achievable goal, taking only the time to set up the channels and monitor them.
R: The objective is directly relevant to future project management by building new habits for future reference. By completing the goal, you now have a stronger foundation for how future project communication can start.
T: The goal is to complete the transition to new project channels by the end of the month.
3. Schedule Weekly Check-Ins
“To promote better communication and alleviate employee concerns, I will schedule weekly check-ins on current projects for one month to ensure we’re working within the schedule and budget constraints.”
S: The goal is to improve transparency and communication between upper management and employees by acting as a middle ground via weekly meetings.
M: The measurable steps include the number of meetings per month, how many points on the current project checklist are completed between meetings, and overall team satisfaction by using strategies like anonymous polling.
A: It’s pretty simple to create meaningful reports and schedule a meeting once every week to update the project’s progress.
R: Over time, this communication ensures transparency and makes later projects easier to manage, especially if they are related or similar to projects already completed within this framework.
T: This can be an ongoing task with a minimum period of one month.
4. Schedule Team-Building Exercises
“I will improve my team members’ abilities by focusing on developing inter-team communication skills through team-building exercises. By participating in one off-site team-building activity every month, the plan is to improve overall employee satisfaction. In addition, I will use anonymous surveys and track public communication channels over the next four months to measure success.”
S: The goal specifies the need for improved team-wide communication through team-building activities outside of work.
M: The metric for improved communication and satisfaction is increased activity on communication channels and anonymous poll results.
A: This is an achievable goal when using modern collaborative tools. For activities, consider outdoor exercises that don’t require a significant time investment.
R: Improved team communication can directly lead to increased overall productivity.
T: The goal will run throughout the next four months.
5. Participate in Industry Workshops
“To improve my project management skills, I will complete a course and participate in industry workshops. In addition, I will find the best available programs and research which one fits me most by consulting with my superiors and my peers.”
S: Direct improvement of project management skills is a precise task with a clear outline.
M: You can measure your success on the course directly through the course’s tracking options. Also, you can measure your improved abilities in overall company performance and upper management satisfaction.
A: This is one of the goals that might require a considerable time investment that can clash with company projects, but it is achievable.
R: Participating in courses that directly improve your industry knowledge and further your capabilities will positively affect performance.
T: The scope of the goal will be based on how long the course lasts. Workshop progress can be tracked on a monthly or quarterly basis.
6. Condense Staff Meetings
“I want to improve company communication and efficiency by condensing staff meetings. Staff meetings will now have a publicly posted agenda so all participants can prepare beforehand and present more effectively. I will institute just one such staff meeting every week for the next month.”
S: The goal is to improve direct communication between team members by encouraging meaningful participation in staff meetings. Only topics approved and posted on the agenda should be discussed.
M: You can track the number of staff meetings, before and after the change, and how long these meetings last. Additionally, you can follow which team members participate and present in these meetings and how often discussions go off-topic.
A: This is an achievable goal. Employees will probably welcome the reduction in overall meetings and the extra time to focus on their projects.
R: Staff meetings are often considered a waste of time and company money. Improving workflow efficiency with well-planned meetings can appease upper management and employees while improving overall productivity and setting more explicit progress guidelines.
T: The goal is to adjust to the new meeting paradigm within one month.
7. Hire New Employees
“I will improve our company’s talent by hiring three new employees in the next three months. To do this, I’ll set up a hiring campaign on relevant media and vet the applicants with the help of senior employees.”
S: The goal is to get new talent in the company through more hires.
M: Progress is measured in steps, from setting up the hiring campaign to receiving applications to interviewing potential employees.
A: Hiring three new employees in three months is not a difficult task for most companies.
R: New talent will lead to new perspectives and ideas. A good hiring campaign and interview process will ensure that you find the best people for the project.
T: Three months is enough time to succeed and a short period to keep you motivated.
8. Create a Reward System
“To increase motivation for getting projects done, I will initiate a reward system for those who work on each project. The rewards will be a $25 gift card for each person who completes their part of the project on time and all employees will be entered in a bi-annual drawing for a $100 gift card.
In addition, at the successful completion of each project, we will have an office pizza party. This policy will be in place starting with the coming month’s projects.”
S: By stating what the reward system will be, when it will be given, and the purpose of the reward system, you make this goal specific. You also state when it will start, which enhances the specificity.
M: This is extremely measurable. You know how many gift cards you give out and they are only given upon successful completion of a project, so you have the number of projects to add to the measurable aspect.
A: As people are often highly motivated by rewards, this goal is attainable. Over time, you may want to vary the rewards to keep the excitement going.
R: People expend more effort when they are motivated. The chance of a reward is a good motivation to have team members put in their best effort in order to finish projects on time.
T: There are a lot of time-bound factors in this goal. You state when it will be initiated and at what points rewards will be given out.
9. Improve Communication Skills
“Lack of proper communication skills is causing issues on projects. In order to improve the communication skills, I will call in a communications expert to conduct a seminar on how to increase your communication skills.
This seminar will take place two months from now and will be mandatory. This seminar will also include activities that demonstrate proper communication skills and a catered lunch to make attending more appealing.”
S: This goal is very specific. You mention what and when. You also mention the reason for the seminar and what measures will be in place to see that it is attended.
M: This is measurable to the extent that you will be able to judge whether the seminar takes place and who attends it. The ultimate success will arise in how well the office staff utilizes the information when working on a project.
A: The seminar will be attainable. The actual learning of staff members will be up to them, but as long as they are willing, this goal can be achieved.
R: Communication is one of the key components when you are working on a project, so this goal is completely relevant to what you are trying to achieve.
T: This is a time-bound goal. You mention that the seminar will take place in two months and that makes it time-bound and gives you a deadline to work toward.
10. Eliminate Scope Creep
“Every project seems to end up having additional steps added on or there are adjustments on what or how something needs to be done. This causes everyone to have to re-evaluate and change direction, causing us to lose valuable time. In order to prevent this from happening, we will have a final meeting before starting each project that will include finalizing the project details.
No changes will be allowed during the process but there will be a final review upon completion and a set time made for any minor changes deemed necessary. This policy will be set up starting the first new project set in motion and we will review it in six months to see if it has been effective in regards to the completion of projects in a more timely, less stressful manner.”
S: This is a specific goal. You state what kind of problems you hope to eliminate. You put in place a way to stop them, what to replace them with, and why it is necessary. You also state when this process will be put into place and include a re-evaluation date.
M: The measurable part of this goal is in how much time is saved on each project. You can also keep track of how much more productive staff is in working on the project when they aren’t waiting for someone to make changes.
A: For the most part, this goal is attainable. It will work better if combined with the following goal as that will help catch any pitfalls that may absolutely require going in a different direction.
R: When you aren’t consistently changing direction while working on a project, it is easier to get it done within budget and on time, so this is definitely relevant.
T: The time-bound aspects of this goal are when you will start using this policy and the evaluation date in six months.
11. Reduce Project Risks
“In order to reduce the risks of any project, which costs us both time and money, I will hire one part-time employee within the next two months, who is not directly involved in the project, so that they can review it with unbiased eyes. Their job will be to review the project details in advance of starting and brainstorm any possible issues that may come up.
By planning in advance for these possibilities, we can avoid losing time if we need to deal with the issue because there will be a Plan B already in place. A project team meeting will be held at the end of each project to gain opinions on whether this helped or hindered the project.”
S: You are specific about this goal by stating that you will hire a person and specifying exactly what their duties will be. You state why you are doing this and how you will measure the success of the goal. You also mention when you will have this in place.
M: You will be able to measure the success of this goal by seeing how many times problems can be avoided or managed and by analyzing the after-project thoughts of those on the team.
A: As long as you are careful to hire someone who has good analytical abilities, this goal is very attainable.
R: Being ready to avoid issues or having the means to eliminate stopping to brainstorm solutions are very relatable to project management.
T: You state when you will hire someone, when they will perform their job, and when you will evaluate the effectiveness. All this makes the goal time-bound.
Final Thoughts on SMART Goals for Project Management
By creating SMART goals from vague aims, you can build a better rapport with upper management and your subordinates. The improved communication and clearly defined objectives will reduce uncertainty and provide a driving factor for change and growth within the company.
In addition, SMART goals can help get projects delivered on time and promote good business practices like transparency and reliability.
Now you can begin implementing SMART goals for your employees and incorporating them into your daily life. There are many ways to start, like decluttering your environment to ensure you are always motivated and focused on work.
And if you want more SMART goal ideas and examples, be sure to check out these blog posts:
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.