According to Wikipedia, the SMART mnemonic was developed by George T. Doran in 1981. I was first exposed to it in a day-long seminar in project management back in the ‘90s. The SMART mnemonic is a way to clearly communicate what you are trying to accomplish, and to clearly measure if the goals you are setting for yourself or your team can be accomplished.
As I learned it, SMART objectives are:
Specific – You are very clear about what is to be accomplished.
Measurable – You can easily see if you’ve accomplished your objective or not.
Achievable – The objective is realistic given your resources (e.g., time, money, people).
Relevant – The objective makes sense for you to do.
Time limited – There is a specific timeline or deadline for when the objective should be accomplished.
SMART objectives can be applied anywhere in your life, both professionally and personally. I encourage my clients to use SMART objectives whenever they’re working on any type of data management project. Here are some examples:
Example 1: “The data is bad in our database. We want to clean it up.”SMART objective:
Specific – All of the contact data for board members should be up-to-date.
Measurable – A list of board members can be run and board members can be contacted to confirm accuracy of data.
Achievable – The board list is only 24 members, so one or two staff people can take on this project.
Relevant – Our board list is one of the most important in the database!
Time limited – We can complete this task two weeks from today.
In this example, being specific about what data you want to clean up, and taking it in “bite size” tasks (i.e., don’t clean up ALL the data at once, but choose specific and high-value data first) allows you to achieve the objective.
Example 2: “The current online registration process is too cumbersome. We need to make it easier.”SMART objective:
Specific – The current process takes more than seven minutes to complete and requires the user to go through seven screens. We’d like to get that down to three minutes and three screens.
Measurable – When we’re done it will take less than four minutes to complete and be three screens.
Achievable – With the help of our AMS vendor we can do this.
Relevant – The process is too cumbersome and is causing lots of complaints.
Time limited – We can complete this task within a month.
In this example, being specific about how the process would look when it is improved helps to define what you’re trying to accomplish and how you can tell when it is completed.
SMART objective can be applied to anything you’re trying to accomplish. Think about something you’d like to improve within your database or your data management. Take that idea and plug it into the SMART framework. If you can’t meet all five requirements, you either have to redefine your objective or admit that the objective that has been set cannot be achieved. In either case, you’ll be better off knowing that before you start.
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For a quarter century, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.
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