SMART – isn’t as smart as we need

SMART is an acronym that someone came up with and millions have repeated without much thinking. When analysed it is a pretty dumb acronym. When recited it is also fairly variable what words are ascribed to some of the letters. Lets examine it in search of the good ideas it embodies and improvement of the poor.

S” for Specific – What is actually meant by S is “Shared Understanding”. It is crucial in any context where more than one mind is involved that we seek to ‘be on the same page’. Now being specific may help that aim but it is not the aim. Common understanding is!

M” for Measurable – What is actually meant is by M is expressed in a manner that can be proved beyond doubt. When ever something is subject to “SMART” the intention is to have achieved so target for the measure. Being measurable is not the aim but achieving some result that can be universally accepted by unambiguous and accepted measurement is! A binary test whose result is achieved or not achieved is to be preferred. Measurable may be helpful but it isn’t the aim: unequivocal proof of achievement is!

Next are “A” and “R” which may be Achievable and Relevant or Agreed and Realistic. More or less two pairs of synonyms as Achievable and Realistic are close in intent while Relevant and Agreed aren’t generally equivalent but are in this context. A & R are supposed to ensure that achievement of the “SMART” result is within our abilities before we start and of seen to be of benefit when we have finished. Benefits can be subjective so it is High Utility to at least some of those sharing understanding that matters. If the target cannot be achieved or its achievement is of Little or no value then no matter how well shared our understanding nor how competent our ability to test and measure the result’s pursuit should not be attempted.

Of course you could make “A” and “R” “Action oriented and “Results oriented” which would also be relevant.

“T” for Time bound is the weakest element of SMART. Not all endeavors are time-bound, only some. Achieving a schedule is a result of committing resources to a scope of work driven from a scope of result or required impact. Traditionally the interplay of Schedule (Time), Resource (Cost), Performance (Scope and or quality) has been represented by a Triangle, but that graphic is too simplistic because it omits Risk, Reputation, Health, Safety, Environmental or any number of other concerns that may be constrained. So “T” for Triangle is an improvement but “C” for constrained would be better

So a better mental model might be:

* Shared Understanding
* Unambiguous Binary proof
* High Utility to as many stakeholders as possible
* As easily (‘cheaply’ in every axis of cost) Achievable as possible
* Within known and them selves ‘smart’ Constraints

Challenge now is to fit this to a word that is as instantly appealing as SMART


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