SMART Goals Examples

Using the smart goal setting method

Do you ever feel that however hard you work towards an objective, it moves further away? The key might be to make your goals more realistic, clear, focused and measurable. The SMART method can help.

In this article, we’ll define the SMART goal-setting approach, explain how to use SMART goals, and provide some practical SMART goals examples.

Interwoven in the SMART goal examples will be the best practices in implementing the SMART method. We’ll also introduce the concept of using SMART goals in an OKR (objectives and key results) methodology and detail the similarities of the frameworks.

Table of Contents

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. This sets the criteria for setting goals and objectives and also provides a framework for measuring success.

SMART goals are used in strategic planning to develop concrete business goals geared towards execution in a defined period, often during quarterly planning or annual planning meetings.

Examples of SMART goals should be:

George T. Doran first introduced the SMART method in the November 1981 issue of Management Review in a paper titled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management Goals and Objectives.”

The benefits of SMART goals for businesses.

You might set objectives with the best intentions, but with no clear timeframes, actions, rationale or specific details, it’s easy for them to go straight to the backburner.

The benefits of the SMART system include:

Examples of SMART goals.

It’s easy to talk about the SMART goals, but what do they look like in practice? Here are some examples of business goals hitting the SMART criteria.

Company-level examples.

We will increase recurring revenue by 25% in 2021, exceeding our 2020 performance by acquiring additional new customers and reducing churn, which will improve overall corporate profitability. We will do so by hitting established targets each quarter throughout the year.

So why is this a SMART goal? If we break it down, you can see it’s:

People operations examples.

Improve the bench strength of the sales and marketing departments by reducing turnover of top performers in each discipline to no more than 10% annually, and onboarding at least three new people each quarter, within the allocated budget.

This will improve the overall performance of these two key disciplines which drive our sales and profitability, as measured by retention and recruiting metrics each quarter.

Customer success examples.

Improve customer service by improving the user experience and reducing response times, as measured by our NPS score, which we’ll improve from 95 to 98. This will reduce customer churn and improve our reputation in the industry, as measured by quarterly response time and NPS metrics.

SMART metrics examples and OKRs.

SMART goals needn’t work in isolation. Many examples of SMART goals for strategic planning use the criteria to form OKRs — objectives and key results.

What are OKRs?

OKRs are designed for companies, teams and individuals working towards a common purpose, combining:

OKRs are larger-scale objectives designed to drive alignment, performance and results. They help focus everyone on the same priorities. Think of them like an overarching plan that people in a business can work towards.

They should be significant, concrete, and action-oriented. They represent the direction. Setting and achieving key results throughout the process can help managers and strategists benchmark and monitor how to get to the objective. They should be succinct, specific, and measurable. They typically include hard numbers.

Using a strategic planning tool like Adobe Workfront Goals can ensure your OKRs are SMART, tracked effectively, and aligned to your organization's strategic goals.

Both goal setting frameworks provide criteria and a methodology for developing goals, and both methods address each element of the SMART acronym.

Let’s take a look at how.

OKRs encompass SMART goal criteria.

Here, you can see how an OKR can and should be SMART. For example:

Company SMART goal example as an OKR.

Here, you can see an example SMART goal as an OKR. Setting out key results gives managers and staff a clear strategy to work towards.

OBJECTIVE: Increase recurring revenue by 25% in 2021.

Key Results:

OKRs adhere to the SMART methodology.

When set out in the SMART format, you can see how the OKR has a bit more context and rationale.

SMART goals and objectives examples can help you think smarter about your company goals and objectives. Remember, by using the SMART method, you can make all goals and OKRs more realistic, disciplined and measurable. By doing so, you can inspire people across your business to achieve them.

Want to learn other goal-setting and management techniques for your business? Check out our guides to:

Frequently asked questions.

What are the five SMART goals in strategic planning?

In strategic planning, SMART goals are similar to other aspects of business management, they need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. When each element of this acronym is met, strategic plans can be more likely to work when executing.

SMART goals help strategic planners to sense-check objectives to make sure they’re realistic and definable, reducing the risk of projects extending further than planned.

How do you write a SMART goal?

To write a SMART goal, separate each element of your overall project aim. It’s likely that any business activity will have a number of sub-goals, and each should be considered on its own merit.

Next, note down the SMART acronym and assess how specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely each goal is. Try to avoid ‘yes’, ‘no’ or subjective judgements and, instead, note which specific idea the goal is grounded on and exactly how you’ll measure success or failure

How can I use SMART goals in each phase of the project life cycle?

At the project initiation stage, project managers can use SMART goals to make or assess the business case. Eliminating goals that don’t meet the criteria can also help to keep project scope streamlined from the beginning.

During the project planning phase, SMART goals can define the project schedule and ensure this is realistic. This can also help form a risk analysis.

When executing a project, you can return to your SMART goals to assign clear responsibilities based on what you’ve defined as actionable.

Once you reach the monitoring and controlling stage, return to the measures you mapped to each goal earlier on. Finally, in closing the project, you can assess how realistic your initial plans were.