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Set S.M.A.R.T objectives

SMART stands for

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable/Achievable/Appropriate
  • Relevant
  • Time

Specific – What exactly am I going to do?

The “specific” part of your objective should be clear and well-defined, or you stand the risk of losing focus and being unmotivated. Common questions to arrive at a specific goal/objective include answers to the popular ‘w’ questions: Who, what, when, where, which, why?

These help identify the specific actions that will result. In some cases it is appropriate to indicate how the change will be implemented (e.g., through training). Verbs such as provide, train, publish, increase, decrease, schedule, or purchase indicate specific action.

Measurable – Is it quantifiable and can I measure it?

Measurable means the ability to count or quantify an activity or the results. It also means the metrics or milestones to use in determining how you progress and if you meet your goal.

If a specific measurement instrument is used, you might want to incorporate its use into the objective. A baseline measurement is required to document change (e.g., to measure percentage increase or decrease). In cases when the baseline is unknown or will be measured as a first activity, it should be indicated in the objective. 

Attainable/Achievable/Appropriate – Can it be done in the proposed time frame with the resources available?

The objective must be feasible with the available resources, limited in scope, and within the project’s control. Sometimes, specifying an expected level of change can be complicated. To help identify a target, talk with a risk expert, look at historical trends, read reports or articles published in the scientific or other literature, look at national expectations for change, and look at projects with similar objectives. Consult with partners or stakeholders about their experiences. Often, talking to others who have implemented similar projects can provide you with information about expected change.

In some situations, it is more important to consider the percentage of change as a number of people when discussing impact. Will the effort required to create the amount of change be a good use of your limited resources?

Relevant/Realistic – Will this objective have an effect on the desired goal or strategy?

Relevant relates to the relationship between the objective and the overall goals of the program or purpose of the intervention. Evidence of relevancy can come from a literature review, best practices, or your theory of change.

Realistic relates to the fact that the objectives must be possible to attain. The objectives, can they be realistically achieved?

Timebound – When will this objective be accomplished?

A reasonable and specified time frame should be included in the objective statement. This should take into consideration the environment in which the change must be achieved, the scope of the change expected, and how it fits into the overall work plan. It could be indicated as “By December 2017, the project will” or “Within 6 months of receiving the initiation,……….”

SMART objectives also helps you to think about and identify elements of the evaluation plan and measurement, provides time constraints and defines milestone indicators and performance measures.

An indicator is what you will measure to obtain observable evidence of accomplishments, changes made, or progress achieved. Indicators describe the type of data you will need to answer your evaluation questions. A SMART objective often tells you what you will measure.

A performance measure is the amount of change or progress achieved toward a specific goal or objective. SMART objectives can serve as your performance measures because they provide the specific information needed to identify expected results.


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