SMART Goals: Explanation and Examples


SMART goals incorporate an acronym to help organizations note beneficial business markers and move from the theoretical to the practical. The ‘smart’ acronym encourages each goal to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. SMART goals differ from OKRs in that goals detail the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ to the goal being accomplished. 

SMART Goals blog graphic

High-performing organizations understand the importance of setting and accomplishing smaller goals in pursuit of their vision. Unfortunately,  many organizations struggle with ambiguous, ill-defined goals that hinder progress toward fulfulling the companies mission and vision. SMART goals are commonly used for more effective goal management that helps companies reach the intended results faster.

What Are SMART Goals?

SMART is an acronym for a proven method that increases the likelihood of achieving better goal results. According to ProjectSmart, the introduction of SMART goals came in 1981 by George T. Doran, a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power company. Doran published a paper with the title, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” It is important to note that while Doran states that the ideal scenario is that all goals in the corporate setting are SMART, he also writes, “It should also be understood that the suggested acronym doesn’t mean that every objective written will have all five criteria.”

Simply put, there is room for nuance and adaptation in goal setting and the SMART method should be adjusted to the specific needs of your organization. SMART goals provide a structure for noting beneficial markers and help companies move the needle from the theoretical to the practical. The bullets below indicate what the acronym means and how to strategically create and track goals that lead to success. 

Specific– If this goal is completed, what is the intended end result? What is the tangible, observable evidence that the goal has been accomplished? Who is the person(s) responsible? 

Measurable– How will the outcome be evaluated? Measurements can be qualitative or quantitative but they should highlight a noticeable difference between before and after the goal was completed. 

Achievable– This marker indicates if the goal is realistic vs. it sounding great on paper. It is important to live in reality and be aware of the resources available and limitations present. 

Relevant– Does this goal align with the mission and vision of the organization? The ‘why’ of the goal should always contribute to the business’s current strategies.  

Time-bound– What is the start and end date of this goal? A deadline is essential so there is a clear indication as to whether or not the goal is on track or at risk. 

How SMART Goals Differ From OKRs

OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results, is a two-step process where the Objective is written as a broad, impactful statement and the Key Results point to how that Objective may be achieved. OKRs differ from goals in that goals detail the ‘what’ and OKRs are the ‘how’ to the goal being accomplished. SMART goals enter the mix as an improved way of writing the original goal by adding important detail to an otherwise vague statement. 

Utilizing goal management software like WorkDove allows SMART goals to seamlessly work in tandem with ORKs. Leveraging the cascading function, organizations can track company, department, and individual SMART goals and align subsequent Objectives and Key Results to the company mission. WorkDove’s Goal Management solution integrates SMART goals into daily workflows and provides user-friendly reporting tools so employees and leaders can visualize and analyze goal progress for more informed decision-making. 

Goals Dashboard Card


Examples of SMART Goals

The following examples are intended to give readers a framework for creating role and/or department-specific SMART goals. However, please remember that these are just examples and each team should foster alignment by collaborating to improve individual and overall business performance within their specific organizations.

1. Marketing

General Goal: Build brand awareness

Specific– We want to be featured in this year’s Brands to Watch publication for our industry category.

Measurable– Increase site traffic by 20%.

Achievable– We partnered with an SEO consultant at the beginning of Q1 and his insight and direction make this goal feel achievable soon. 

Relevant– We recently provided major updates to our website to display consistent messaging. 

Time-bound– The Brands to Watch publication is released on October 10th of this year.

Final Smart Goal: Increase site traffic by 20%.  By being featured in Brands to Watch on October 10th and by reviewing and optimizing on-page SEO and blog posts, we will incrementally increase site traffic by 2% monthly.

2. Human Resources

General Goal: Retain and Grow Talent

Specific– We want to identify 3 potential Directors from our current in-house talent pool through a leadership succession process.

Measurable– We will complete a 9-box grid exercise on 10 potential candidates.

Achievable– We implemented a new performance management software in the fall and the tool includes a 9-box solution. We have a great relationship with the software company and will solicit training help for the 9-box from their experts.

Relevant– One Director is retiring next year so this is a top priority for this fiscal year. 

Time-bound– The identification of 3 potential Directors must be completed by the end of Q3 of this year so leadership development and training can begin before the current Director retires in Q2 of next year. 

Final Smart Goal: Through utilization of our new performance management software, we will identify 3 potential Directors by completing a 9-box grid exercise on 10 candidates by the end of Q3 of this year.

3. Manager

General Goal: I want to improve my coaching skills for my direct reports.

Specific– I want to provide better direction for my employees to display our company’s core values well in their behaviors at work. 

Measurable– I would like for all my direct reports to receive a 3-star rating or above for the core values in their performance reviews. 

Achievable– I have two direct reports whose most recent evaluations reveal a 3-star rating but two other employees who received 2-star ratings for workplace behaviors. 

Relevant– Our team morale took a hit with the recent merger so a focus on displaying behaviors in line with our core values will improve team unity and collaboration. 

Time-bound– Our annual performance review is set for December 12th of this year. 

Final Smart Goal: I will improve upon my coaching skills by providing scheduled and in-the-moment coaching conversations with my direct reports regarding our company’s core values, resulting in all 4 of them receiving a 3-star rating or above for core values in their December performance reviews.

4. Employee

General Goal: I want to increase my sales win rate.

Specific- I want to hold the highest win rate on our Sales team.

Measurable– Increase my win rate from 20% to 30%.

Achievable– Our new sales software will help pinpoint the products in our offering that attract the most sales, as well as which outreach channels are performing the best.

Relevant– We recently lost a Sales rep, so it is more important now than ever that the current team’s sales are at their best.

Time-bound– I would like to reach this goal within two quarters. 

Final Smart Goal: Within the next 2 quarters, I will hold the highest win rate on our Sales team of 30% by leveraging our new sales software. I will dig through its data to pinpoint the highest-selling products in our offering and utilize the best-performing outreach channels to achieve this goal. 

Partner With WorkDove to Create and Accomplish Your SMART Goals

Implementing the SMART goals framework will allow your organization to reach its desired results with more efficiency and team alignment. Goal management software solutions like WorkDove help improve performance and save precious time and money. With WorkDove, you get real-time goal tracking and progress updates, the ability to embed your SMART goals into regular performance check-ins and performance reviews, and the option to automatically notify goal owners and contributors of changes made. Improve team focus and organization-wide accountability with a SMART goals solution customized to fit the growing needs of your business with WorkDove today!

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