How to set SMART goals in a project

Building blocks to setting SMART goals

It is very important to set well defined goals for a project. The scope of the project should be clearly outlined, taking into consideration cost, time and quality factors. The project should also be within the capacity of the team and with incentive and encouragement to push the project forward to reach its goal.

This guide aims at helping a project manager set identifiable milestones in order to arrive at the project goal. The SMART model for setting goals may also be applied to both official and domestic needs, be it for business projects or for personal achievements.


Step 1

S- Specific

Goals have to be specific. The scope of the project should be so well defined that it should not give room for doubt or misunderstanding. For example, if a wall has to be constructed, the scope of the project should be the building of a wall, while its goal should be the completed version of the project. Being specific would mean that more detailing to the project scope is also mentioned in the guidelines , for example, whether the wall is to be made of brick or wood panels with its approximate measurements. It highlights the WHY, WHAT and HOW aspects of goal setting.

Step 2

M — Measurable

Goals should be measurable. The project manager should be able to qualitatively and quantitatively make a report of the project based on mathematical estimations. As in the above example, if a brick wall is to be made, the project manager should be able to guide his team on the required number of bricks / wood panels, height of the wall, number of workers required, etc. Even the quality of the work may follow a rating scale from 0-5 where 0 stands for total work failure and 5 stands for successful project quality.

It follows the principle of «If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.«

Step 3

A — Achievable

Projects have to be achievable. A project goal has to be within the practical applications of project implementation. The project vision should result in a concrete goal and not one that is beyond the means of the project manager and the project team. For this, the project plan will have to outline and provide resources to make the end goal achievable. It should also be stretched within limits to bring out the dedication and commitment of the project team in order to be a motivating factor for the next project.

Step 4

R — Realistic

Projects cannot be abstract, obscure or fantastic. It has to be real, with a realistic end goal. It has to be do-able. It deals with what can be done in the project to achieve the end goal. There should be a high bar / level for achieving results without breaking the team.

Step 5

T — Time-bound

Projects are different from operations. They are time bound and require specific time frames for every stage of the project. Since a project is specific and brought about as a result of ‘need’ and ‘requisite’ at a specific time, so should it be timely and prompt. Outlining specific time schedules makes a project unique, attainable and successful.

Things Needed
• Project guidelines
• Resources
• Time table / schedule
• Mathematical or analytic tools for measuring project performance
• A specific end result

Tips & Warnings
• Do not set goals that are far-fetched and unrealistic.
• Goals may be stretched beyond the comfort zone of the team / individual, but should not break the spirit of the project.
• Projects should have a specific start and finish.
• Evaluation and Reward can turn a SMART goal SMARTER


Add a comment



Text commentary: