How To Set Goals and Delegate the SMART Way

How to delegate using SMARTER tasks

When we set ourselves a goal, we want to stick to it. Equally, as a leader or manager, you have to effectively delegate tasks in order for your team to perform well and to achieve your aim. 

But this is simpler in theory than in practice. Often a leader’s’ experience is that – even when you think you have delegated something effectively – you still encounter problems. People may keep coming back and bugging you with questions, or alternatively the task is not done on time, or the job is not completed to the right standard.

To help avoid these issues we can use the acronym ‘SMART’ when delegating work. SMART stands for:

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Attainable,
  • Relevant and
  • Time-bound.

This method is accredited to George T. Doran (who first described a version of the acronym in the November 1981 edition of Management Review) and since then the method has evolved to encompass various adaptations of the acronym including having an E (for evaluate) and an extra R (for re-evaluate) to create ‘SMARTER’ goals.

Let’s look at each one in more detail.

What a SMART or SMARTER task actually means

S – Specific

When you give someone a goal it needs to be specific. It needs to be clearly defined and unambiguous. Whether it is a large mission or a smaller task you need to express what success looks like.

Specific is the most useful word here but you could also substitute ‘significant’ or ‘stretching’ in here if you want to make a task more aspirational (such as a ‘BHAG’ – Big Hairy Audacious Goal – promoted by Jim Collins in Good to Great) or use it as a reminder to keep things ‘simple’ or ‘sustainable’.

M – Measurable

Next, the task needs to be measureable. In other words, it needs to be possible to track the progress of completion of the goal. If the task is a big one you might need to break it down into separate activities and set milestones to help monitor progress.

Having specified the goal and broken it down to measure it you have the fundamentals of a plan.

A – Attainable

It is good for goals to stretch us but the ‘A’ here makes us ensure that the task is attainable. We can be bold but the task needs to be achievable. A task can stretch a person or a team (this is healthy) but if you are asking the impossible of someone, it will quickly become de-motivational. As a leader, you set goals to help people grow, not to set them up for failure.

Therefore by asking this question we also consider whether the person in question is properly equipped and supported to achieve the task. If it is our goal then we need to reflect upon our readiness. As a manager, we should be checking that whoever we delegate to has the right training and resources to complete their work.

R – Relevant

The task needs to be relevant to the vision of the team or organisation. Ask yourself, does this piece of work take you a step closer to achieving your overall mission? It is in line with your values? If not you may need to redefine the task.

The work also needs to be relevant to the person you are delegating to. Are they the best person for the job? Is it part of their role and job description? Do they have the relevant skills and experience? Will they be developed by this task?

T – Time Dependent

Having to create a timeline makes you properly assess how long a piece of work should take. Considering time also makes you evaluate your priorities and any dependencies that one task may have upon another.

Deadlines also help to keep people accountable for finishing and stop a piece of work dragging on endlessly. The time element, as with everything else, should be set in agreement with the person you are delegating to so that you all ‘contract in’ to the parameters for the work.

E – Evaluate

Adding in the ‘E’ of ‘Evaluate’ is useful as it brings in the discipline of reviewing how well work has been done. It gives the opportunity for feedback; praise, constructive criticism and learning on behalf of the manager and worker.

For a larger goal you might want to consider these evaluation steps and plan them in along with your overall deadline. Make evaluation time dependent too.

R – Re-evaluate

Decision making and learning happen in a cycle. We recognise this by adding the re-evaluation step here. Re-evaluation is a continuation of the learning from the ‘Evaluate’ phase. Once you have identified lessons at the evaluation phase these should be incorporated in the next stage of the activity. This gives the opportunity to learn and improve as the task progresses.

For example, the first time around the deadline might not have been achieved or the person may have needed more support to achieve the goal. Once the task has been re-set and re-started then the results can be re-evaluated to identify improvement.

How to set SMART goals video – YouTube

Set SMART goals and SMARTER tasks

Setting SMART goals helps us ensure that goals are actually achieved. It helps take the goal from an idea to a plan that we have committed to.

Equally the SMARTER approach provides a useful checklist and process by which both a manager and employee can agree upon the parameters for a task and be accountable for its outcome. Setting SMARTER tasks helps to build in the reviewing and learning from goals that if often forgotten or neglected.

So what is your next goal or task? Apply the SMART or model and make sure it happens!

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8 thoughts on “How To Set Goals and Delegate the SMART Way

  1. Pingback: The GROW Model

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