It’s Time To Ditch SMART Goals

Are SMART goals just stupid?

Of course they are.

Some business-head somewhere (George T. Doran apparently) thought that it would be a nice idea to invent a mnemonic acronym that communicated a message about goal setting and they felt pleased as punch when they came up with SMART.

SMART this, SMART that, SMART the other.

SMART has been in our faces and on our documents for decades and obviously our lives have been transformed.

Back to the real world…

Clever sounding acronyms do what they do: they manipulate and coax us into a way of being and a culture of necessity grows up around them.

If we aren’t using SMART then we must be mad. Everyone is doing SMART and we can’t be seen to be doing our own thing….and so the damn thing goes viral and before you know it SMART has infiltrated every policy document and every appraisal going.

The SMART bandwagon has been a pretty big one. In fact, a whole industry has mushroomed out of this acronym with ‘consultants’ and consultancies peddling SMART ways of working.

SMARTy Pants

In case you aren’t familiar and you have been in cryonic suspension SMART = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound.

Over the years, SMART has become SMARTER but not in a good way. It’s had a makeover and been adapted. Take a look at the bastardisations:

  • SMARTER – now with added ‘Evaluated and Reviewed’ or if you prefer ‘Evaluate consistently and Recognise Mastery’ (which should strictly be SMARTECARM but that doesn’t look or sound as good).

It get’s worse. Some not so bright sparks have ‘thought outside the box’ and made some more highly inventive adaptations and revisions:

  • SMARTTA – Trackable and Agree

Then someone thought “let’s really toy with this idea and shake things up and actually insert a letter before the ‘Time-bound’ bit  people will love it!” – we don’t:

  • SMARRT – Realistic and Relevance

And someone bored with their life working in TV sat down after a failed SWOT analysis and did some reverse thinking:

  • SMART-VT – Verifiable and Traceable

If you are really desperate for change then just reverse the letters and go TRAMS for a different kind of journey.

We need all these add-ons and add-ins like a hole in the head. People get paid for this sort of thing apparently.

Eating lots of Smarties might have led to these ridiculous outbursts and modifications of the SMART ‘model’ but they don’t do anything but infuriate us. This ‘acronym drift‘ has meant that there are now various models all leading their own lives and confusing the hell out of goal-setting.

There is another definition:

  • Stupid
  • Meaningless
  • Arcane
  • Ridiculous
  • Turgid

The problem with SMART goals is that they don’t really go anywhere. They aren’t ambitious enough and they waste a huge amount of time – they are just a paper exercise that go through the motions. They also remind me of another motion but let’s not go into that.

SMART goals have no place in education unless you like to drown people in dullness.

What I like to propose is we aim higher, much higher and ditch SMART in favour of HUGG: Huge Unbelievably Great Goal.

HUGG is the marvellous idea of Dr Andy Cope, a happiness expert with a down-to-earth approach but sky-high expectations. This is the guy who wants to have a ‘GCSE Wellbeing’ sit alongside Maths and English and this tells you he is serious about HUGG.

In his new book The Little Book of Emotional Intelligence, he says that by following SMART then we do what everyone else does. SMART is the sheep way of working and SMART objectives are “piddling”.

He thinks the T in SMART stands for ‘The same as every other business’. He also questions the futility of being ‘realistic’ when they is so much to aim for – bang on Andy, bang on.

Do we want to be the best and ‘world class’ teachers? Of course we do. Andy says,

“…you have to raise your gaze above what everyone else is doing. Putting someone on the Moon is what I call a HUGG – a Huge Unbelievably Great Goal – or what Kim Cameron calls an ‘Everest Goal’.

Andy suggests we get serious about having massive and inspirational goals because they are “exciting, stimulating and ever so slightly uncomfortable. They’re on the edge of achievability and most importantly, they’re worth getting out of bed for.”

Let’s be positive deviants and do things differently and HUGG. As Kim Cameron says,

Everest goals are not just fanciful dreams, instead they encourage remarkable performance, focus on opportunities and possibilities, and energise people.

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