The concept is widely credited to management guru Peter Drucker, first put to paper in 1981 by George Doran in Management Review and eagerly spread by HR departments everywhere. If it isn’t practiced in your neck of the woods, you might want to give it a look.
The SMART acronym stands for:
- Attainable (or Assignable or Achievable)
In practice, applying those criteria while setting objectives results in meaningful, easy-to-track, quantifiable goals that – if achieved and aligned with the overall business strategy – bring value to the organization.
In the program and event world, the SMART approach can bring focus to basic goals such as “We are going to increase our number of programs offered” or “We are going to grow overall attendance” or “We are going to stay within budget.”
A SMART version of the “more programs” objective might read something like this: “Add four additional Introduction to Microsoft Windows 8.X courses by Winter of 2014. Ensure events reach at least 80% capacity.” This goal is specific and measurable, has a deadline, and we are going to assume it is attainable (definitely assignable) and realistic.
A smarter version of an attendance goal might be as simple as “increase program attendance by 5% in 2014” but the action items to achieve that goal might take a little work. But, if this goal supports the goals of the organization, those action items are likely going to be what you should be working on anyway, right?
You might wonder – aside from number of events, attendance and financials – what else makes sense to build SMART objectives around?
It certainly would be wise to create a goal that pushes you to improve the quality of your offerings. You can measure it by a post-event(s) evaluations. Shoot for a satisfaction metric you would like to achieve with your participants, or an increase of that metric from the year prior. Put in place action steps to improve your program/event, follow-through and evaluate.
Similarly, you might measure effectiveness by how participants do in a post-event testing (assuming it’s a course, certification or training-type program). Set a goal that X-percent achieve a certain grade or higher, or pass, or whatever. You can do similar with CEUs awarded, childcare certifications completed, and so on.
Get as specific as you need to add value. If your programs or events perform below what you would expect with a certain demographic, make a goal to increase participation from the group and set action steps to bring them in the fold.
You can also develop SMART goals related to your marketing efforts. For instance, you might seek to increase your number of calls, direct mail, e-mails or e-mail response rates. A SMART goal can also be process related – perhaps you aim to reduce the number of unpaid registrations by a certain percentage and build or improve processes to ensure that happens.
Aside from the benefit to the organization, SMART goals bring focus to your responsibilities and quantify their impact. No doubt many of you managing programs and events devise goals in this manner to continue to improve your offerings and your performance. If you have some examples that work well for you – or just want to share your thoughts about the SMART methodology – feel free to post your insights in the Comments section below.