SMART criteria

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A variant of the SMART model

S.M.A.R.T. (or SMART) is an acronym used as a mnemonic device to establish criteria for effective goal-setting and objective development. This framework is commonly applied in various fields, including project management, employee performance management, and personal development. The term was first proposed by George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of 'Management Review',[1] where he advocated for setting objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-bound—hence the acronym S.M.A.R.T.

Since its inception, the SMART framework has evolved, leading to the emergence of different variations of the acronym. Commonly used versions incorporate alternative words, including 'attainable,' 'relevant,' and 'timely.' Additionally, several authors have introduced supplementary letters to the acronym.[2] For instance, some refer to SMARTS goals, which include the element of 'self-defined,' while others utilize SMARTER goals.[3]

Proponents of SMART objectives argue that these criteria facilitate a clear framework for goal setting and evaluation, applicable across various contexts such as business (between employee and employer) and sports (between athlete and coach). This framework enables the individual setting the goal to have a precise understanding of the expected outcomes, while the evaluator has concrete criteria for assessment. The SMART acronym is linked to Peter Drucker's Management by Objectives (MBO) concept, illustrating its foundational role in strategic planning and performance management.[4]


In the November 1981 issue of Management Review (AMA Forum), George T. Doran's paper titled "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives" introduces a framework for setting management objectives, emphasizing the importance of clear goals.[1][5][6] The S.M.A.R.T. criteria he proposes are as follows:

  • Specific: Targeting a particular area for improvement.
  • Measurable: Quantifying, or at least suggesting, an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable: Defining responsibility clearly.
  • Realistic: Outlining attainable results with available resources.
  • Time-related: Including a timeline for expected results

Doran clarifies that it's not always feasible to quantify objectives at all management levels, particularly for middle-management roles. He argues for the value in balancing quantifiable objectives with more abstract goals to formulate a comprehensive action plan. This emphasizes the integration of objectives with their execution plans as the foundation of effective management.

Common usage[edit]

S.M.A.R.T. goals and objectives are key concepts in planning and project management. The acronym, while consistently used, applies differently to goals and objectives. Goals define the broad outcomes intended from a project or assignment, and objectives specify the actionable steps aimed at achieving these outcomes[7].There is acknowledgment of some variation in the application of the framework, reflecting a range of interpretations in practice.

Letter Most common Alternative
S Specific[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18] (Strategic and specific)[19]
M Measurable[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19]
A Achievable[8][11][12][14][16][17] or attainable[15][19] Assignable[1] (original definition), Agreed,[10] action-oriented,[9] ambitious,[13] (agreed, attainable and achievable),[18] aggressive[20]
R Relevant[8][11][14][16] Realistic,[10][12][13][15][17] reasonable,[9] (realistic and resourced),[18] results-based[19]
T Time-bound[8][11][12][13][18][19] Time-based,[14] time-oriented, time-limited,[16] time/cost limited,[10] timely,[9] time-sensitive,[15] timeframe[17]


Research suggests that the effectiveness of the SMART goal-setting framework can vary depending on the context in which it is applied, indicating that its universal application might not always yield effective outcomes.[21]

Career goals[edit]

A Michigan State University Extension study highlighted the effectiveness of the SMART goal-setting approach. It showed that individuals who wrote down their goals and outlined action steps had a 76% success rate in achieving them, especially when they shared weekly updates with a friend. This was compared to a 43% success rate for those who didn't document their goals, indicating an advantage to the structured approach of SMART goal-setting.[22] According to the University of California, the SMART framework enhances career goal success. Studies show individuals using SMART objectives are ten times more likely to achieve their goals.[23]

Physical activity[edit]

A review of literature indicates mixed effectiveness of the SMART acronym for increasing physical activity.[24] Criticisms focus on its lack of scientific basis and empirical support, suggesting non-specific, open-ended goals might be more beneficial for some individuals. Research indicates that vague or challenging goals could be more effective than specific ones for increasing physical activity. Swann et al. highlight the original SMART framework's absence of theoretical or empirical foundation, contrasting with broader goal-setting research.[3]


The SMART framework has been expanded by some authors to include additional criteria, enhancing its versatility and application. Examples of these extensions are:

    • Evaluated and reviewed[8]
    • Evaluate consistently and recognize mastery[9]
    • Exciting and Recorded [25]
    • Trackable and agreed[17]
    • Realistic and relevance – 'Realistic' refers to something that can be done given the available resources. 'Relevance' ensures the goal is in line with the bigger picture and vision.[29]
    • A social goal or objective which demonstrates "Impact"[30]

Alternative acronyms[edit]

Other mnemonic acronyms (or contractions) also give criteria to guide in the setting of objectives.

  • CLEAR:[31][32] Collaborative; Limited; Emotional; Appreciable; Refinable
  • PURE:[32] Positively stated; Understood; Relevant; Ethical
  • CPQQRT: [33][34] Context; Purpose; Quantity; Quality; Resources; Timing
  • ABC:[35] Achievable; Believable; Committed

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Doran, G. T. (1981). "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives" (PDF). Management Review. 70 (11): 35–36.
  2. ^ "A Brief History of SMART Goals". Project Smart. 13 December 2014. Retrieved 2022-07-08.
  3. ^ a b Swann, Christian; Hooper, Andrew; Schweickle, Matthew J.; Peoples, Gregory; Mullan, Judy; Hutto, Daniel; Allen, Mark S.; Vella, Stewart A. (2020-03-01). "Comparing the effects of goal types in a walking session with healthy adults: Preliminary evidence for open goals in physical activity". Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 47: 101475. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2019.01.003. ISSN 1469-0292. S2CID 149646978.
  4. ^ Bogue, Robert (25 April 2005). "Use S.M.A.R.T. goals to launch management by objectives plan". TechRepublic. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  5. ^ "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write managements's goals and objectives" (PDF). Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  6. ^ Why SMART objectives don't work.
  7. ^ SAMHSA Native Connections. "Setting Goals and Developing Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound Objectives" (PDF). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Yemm, Graham (2013). Essential Guide to Leading Your Team: How to Set Goals, Measure Performance and Reward Talent. Pearson Education. pp. 37–39. ISBN 978-0-273-77244-6. Retrieved 2013-07-05.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Piskurich, George M. (2011). Rapid Instructional Design: Learning ID Fast and Right. John Wiley & Sons. p. 132. ISBN 978-1-118-04692-0. Retrieved 2013-07-05.
  10. ^ a b c d e Richman, Larry (2011). Improving Your Project Management Skills. AMACOM Division of American Management Association. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-8144-1729-4. Retrieved 2013-07-11.
  11. ^ a b c d e Frey, Bruno S.; Osterloh, Margit (2002). Successful Management by Motivation : Balancing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Incentives. Springer. p. 234. ISBN 978-3-540-42401-7. Retrieved 2013-07-11.
  12. ^ a b c d e Lawler, John; Bilson, Andy (2013). Social Work Management and Leadership : Managing Complexity with Creativity. Routledge. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-1-135-24705-8. Retrieved 2013-07-14.
  13. ^ a b c d e Poister, Theodore H. (2008). Measuring Performance in Public and Nonprofit Organizations. John Wiley & Sons. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-470-36517-5. Retrieved 2013-07-14.
  14. ^ a b c d e Ryals, Lynette; McDonald, Malcolm (2012). Key Account Plans: The practitioners' guide to profitable planning. Routledge. p. 268. ISBN 978-1-136-39065-4. Retrieved 2013-07-14.
  15. ^ a b c d e Shahin, Arash; Mahbod, M. Ali (2004). "Prioritization of key performance indicators: An integration of analytical hierarchy process and goal setting". International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management. 56 (3): 226–240. doi:10.1108/17410400710731437.
  16. ^ a b c d e Siegert, Richard J; Taylor, William J (2004). "Theoretical aspects of goal-setting and motivation in rehabilitation". Disability & Rehabilitation. 26 (1): 1–8. doi:10.1080/09638280410001644932. PMID 14660192. S2CID 23648910.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Dwyer, Judith; Hopwood, Nicole (2010). Management Strategies and Skills. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-027767-0.
  18. ^ a b c d e "SMART objectives". Investors in People. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  19. ^ a b c d e O'Neil, Jan; Conzemius, Anne (2006). The Power of SMART Goals: Using Goals to Improve Student Learning. Solution Tree Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-932127-87-4.
  20. ^ "Goal Setting For Life" (PDF).
  21. ^ Bjerke, May Britt; Renger, Ralph (2017) [April 2017]. "Being smart about writing SMART objectives". Evaluation and Program Planning. 61: 125–127. doi:10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2016.12.009. ISSN 1873-7870. PMID 28056403. S2CID 207569599.
  22. ^ "Achieving your goals: An evidence-based approach". MSU Extension. 2014-08-26. Retrieved 2024-01-09.
  23. ^ "Set SMART goals for the 2022-2023 performance year". Retrieved 2024-01-05.
  24. ^ Swann, Christian; Jackman, Patricia C.; Lawrence, Alex; Hawkins, Rebecca M.; Goddard, Scott G.; Williamson, Ollie; Schweickle, Matthew J.; Vella, Stewart A.; Rosenbaum, Simon; Ekkekakis, Panteleimon (2022-01-31). "The (over)use of SMART goals for physical activity promotion: A narrative review and critique". Health Psychology Review. 17 (2): 211–226. doi:10.1080/17437199.2021.2023608. ISSN 1743-7199. PMID 35094640. S2CID 246429452.
  25. ^ Brian Mac. "Goal Setting". Brian Mac Sports Coach. Archived from the original on 13 July 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  26. ^ Pinkett, Randal (7 March 2023). Data-Driven DEI: The Tools and Metrics You Need to Measure, Analyze, and Improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. John Wiley & Sons. p. 142. ISBN 978-1-119-85692-4. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  27. ^ Knips, Andrew; Lopez, Sonya; Savoy, Michael; LaParo, Kendall (6 October 2022). Equity in Data: A Framework for What Counts in Schools. ASCD. ISBN 978-1-4166-3141-5. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  28. ^ SMARTA Objectives
  29. ^ Atkinson, Marilyn; Chois, Rae T. (2012). Step-by-Step Coaching. Exalon Publishing, LTD. ISBN 978-0-9783704-5-9.
  30. ^ Brown, Quisha (2021). Racial Equity Lens Logic Model & Theory of Change: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help Organizations Become More Confident in Their Ability to Demonstrate Outcomes. Monee, IL: Independently Published. p. 28. ISBN 979-8-5727-2127-0.
  31. ^ "Forget SMART Goals -- Try CLEAR Goals Instead". 2015-01-03.
  32. ^ a b "Goal Setting - Are Your Goals SMART PURE and CLEAR". February 2012. Archived from the original on 2019-06-02. Retrieved 2018-07-24.
  33. ^ "Successful Delegation: Using the Power of Other People" (PDF). Academic Learning Network NZ. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-02-18. Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  34. ^ "How to Assign Tasks Using a Simple Tool - CPQQRT". Mining Man. 2010-09-30.
  35. ^ Chowdhury, Madhuleena Roy (June 15, 2021). "The Science & Psychology of Goal-Setting 101".