A simple possible cause of failure for goals is that they do not meet the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or Attainable), Realistic (or Relevant) and Time-bound. Common characteristics of poorly set goals are:
- Specific: Too conceptual, or vaguely expressed hopes and aspirations
- Measurable: Cannot be described in quantifiable terms
- Achievable: Lack of belief, or beyond the capacity and skill of the individual or team
- Realistic: Out of touch with the context within which it is being set
- Time-bound: Most often simply not defined
The SMART criteria are not a universal panacea. For example, if a person is already strongly motivated towards a goal, the fact that it doesn’t meet the SMART criteria may not matter. Conversely, the best-constructed SMART goal will not necessarily be effective if there are core motivation issues for the person – the most common causes being lack of engagement with their senses or a clash with their values.
SMART Goals were first seen in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran.