SMART criteria

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A variant of the SMART model

S.M.A.R.T. is a mnemonic acronym, giving criteria to guide in the setting of goals and objectives that are assumed to give better results, for example in 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] He suggested that goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related).

Since then, other variations of the acronym have been used, a commonly used version includes the alternative words: attainable, relevant, and timely. Additional letters have been added by some authors.[2]

Those who support the use of SMART objectives suggest they provide a clear road map for both the person setting the goal and the person evaluating their progress (e.g. employee and employer, or athlete and coach). The person setting the goal is said to gain a clear understanding of what needs to be delivered and the person evaluating can then assess the outcome based on defined criteria. SMART criteria are commonly associated with Peter Drucker's management by objectives concept.[3]

Often, the terms S.M.A.R.T. Goals and S.M.A.R.T. Objectives are used. Although the acronym SMART generally stays the same, objectives and goals can differ. Goals are the distinct purpose that is to be anticipated from the assignment or project,[4] while objectives, on the other hand, are the determined steps that will direct full completion of the project goals.[4]


The November 1981 issue of Management Review (AMA Forum) contained a paper by George T. Doran called There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives.[1][5][6] It discussed the importance of objectives and the difficulty of setting them.

Ideally speaking, each corporate, department, and section objective should be:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state which results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Notice that these criteria don't say that all objectives must be quantified on all levels of management. In certain situations, it is not realistic to attempt quantification, particularly in staff middle-management positions. Practicing managers and corporations can lose the benefit of a more abstract objective in order to gain quantification. It is the combination of the objective and its action plan that is really important. Therefore serious management should focus on these twins and not just the objective.

— George T. Doran, There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives[1][6]

Common usage[edit]

Each letter in SMART refers to a different criterion for judging objectives. There is some variation in usage, but perhaps the most commonly used criteria today are:

Letter Most common Alternative
S Specific[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17] (Strategic and specific)[18]
M Measurable[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18] Motivating[19]
A Achievable[7][10][11][13][15][16] or attainable[14][18] Assignable[1] (original definition), Agreed,[9][20] action-oriented,[8] ambitious,[12] aligned with corporate goals,[21] (agreed, attainable and achievable),[17] aggressive[22]
R Relevant[7][10][13][15][23] Realistic,[9][11][12][14][16][20] resourced,[23] reasonable,[8] (realistic and resourced),[17] results-based[18]
T Time-bound[7][10][11][12][17][18] Trackable,[19] time-based,[13] time-oriented, time-limited,[15] time/cost limited,[9] timely,[8] time-sensitive,[14] timeframe,[16] testable[24]


Although SMART goals are widely used and often recommended, their effectiveness is widely debated.[citation needed] The meaning of "SMART" can vary in practice, such as SMARTS goals that adds "self-defined" or SMARTER goals.[25]

Physical activity[edit]

A review of the evidence on the SMART acronym to increase physical activity found that its use is not based on scientific theory, is not supported by evidence, and has potentially harmful effects.[26] In contrast, a growing body of evidence suggests that non-specific and open-ended goals (e.g. "see how fast I can run 5 km" or "see how far I can walk in 3 hours") may be more effective to increase physical activity.[25] In the context of physical activity, research suggests that specific goals are no more effective than vague goals and vague goals may be advantageous for the physically inactive. Research suggests that challenging goals are more effective than specific goals. Swann et al. note that the paper introducing SMART lacks a theoretical framework or empirical evidence, in contrast to the literature on goal setting.[25]: 4 

Additional criteria[edit]

Some authors have added additional letters giving additional criteria. Examples are given below.

    • Evaluated and reviewed[7]
    • Evaluate consistently and recognize mastery[8]
    • Exciting and Recorded [27]
    • Exciting and Reach – A goal should excite and motivate an athlete, and make them "reach" by stretching their abilities and pushing them past their comfort zone.
    • Ethical & Resourced, as mentioned in "Project Management Lite"
    • Trackable and agreed[16]
    • agreed and accountable
    • 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.[31]
    • A social goal or objective which demonstrates "Impact"[32]

Alternative acronyms[edit]

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

  • CLEAR:[33][34] Collaborative; Limited; Emotional; Appreciable; Refinable
  • PURE:[34] Positively stated; Understood; Relevant; Ethical
  • CPQQRT: [35][36][37] Context; Purpose; Quantity; Quality; Resources; Timing
  • ABC:[38] Achievable; Believable; Committed

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d 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. Retrieved 2022-07-08.
  3. ^ Bogue, Robert. "Use S.M.A.R.T. goals to launch management by objectives plan". TechRepublic. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b SAMHSA Native Connections. "Setting Goals and Developing Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound Objectives" (PDF). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  5. ^ "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write managements's goals and objectives" (PDF). Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  6. ^ a b Why SMART objectives don't work.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Dwyer, Judith; Hopwood, Nicole (2010). Management Strategies and Skills. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-027767-0.
  17. ^ a b c d e "SMART objectives". Investors in People. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ a b Blanchard, Kenneth. One Minute Manager.
  20. ^ a b Mentioned as an alternative in Yemm, Graham (2013)
  21. ^ Mentioned as an alternative in Piskurich, George M. (2011)
  22. ^ "Goal Setting For Life" (PDF).
  23. ^ a b Mentioned as an alternative in Lawler, John; Bilson, Andy (2013)
  24. ^ "SMART Requirements Definition and Management". Retrieved 2017-05-31.[dead link]
  25. ^ a b c 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.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ Brian Mac. "Goal Setting". Brian Mac Sports Coach. Archived from the original on 13 July 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ SMARTA Objectives
  31. ^ Atkinson, Marilyn; Chois, Rae T. (2012). Step-by-Step Coaching. Exalon Publishing, LTD. ISBN 978-0-9783704-5-9.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ "Forget SMART Goals -- Try CLEAR Goals Instead". 2015-01-03.
  34. ^ a b "Goal Setting - Are Your Goals SMART PURE and CLEAR". February 2012.
  35. ^ "Successful Delegation: Using the Power of Other People" (PDF). Academic Learning Network NZ.
  36. ^ "How To Correctly Ask An Employee To Do A Task". Linkedin. 2015-04-06.
  37. ^ "How to Assign Tasks Using a Simple Tool - CPQQRT". Mining Man. 2010-09-30.
  38. ^ Chowdhury, Madhuleena Roy (June 15, 2021). "The Science & Psychology of Goal-Setting 101".