SMART principle / SMART goals

The SMART principle is a management term for the simple and clear development and monitoring of goals. In the 1990s the idea arose among technicians and designers to give their managers specific tasks. Theoretically and practically there are different variants of the smart principle.


The letters of SMART stand for:

S.specific - is the goal clear?
M.edible - under what conditions or forms was the goal achieved?
A.Acceptable - Are these goals acceptable to the target audience and / or management?
R.ealistic - is the goal achievable?
Time-related / time-critical - can the goal (in time) be achieved?

The criteria in SMART are themselves goals for the requirements program for a project or an order.

Use of SMART

The principle is widely used in project management in both the private and public sectors. When managers talk about “SMART” or “Formulate SMART”, it means that the goals must be formulated in a specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic and time-bound manner.


The five letters of SMART are regularly provided with letters. For example, the R of Relevant: (Is the goal valuable to the organization or the people involved?), Although this is related to the feasibility of A.

There is a movement in the coaching world that adds an E for Ecological to the end. This means that the given goal must match the (work) experience, the living environment and the skills of the subject (does the goal fit into the world of the people involved?). The acronym SMARTER is created by adding E and R.

There is also a current that adds the letter I for inspiration. The goals must provide enough inspiration for everyone involved to get started: is the goal motivating enough?

Criticism of the SMART principle

The criticism of the SMART principle focuses on two points:

The normative character. Is it true that goals must always be achievable, acceptable, etc.? Working on goals that will never be achieved is not necessarily meaningless.

The inability to formulate SMART goals. Many concepts (e.g. safety, satisfaction, quality of life) are difficult or impossible to measure. The requirement to formulate SMART goals can in these cases lead to a fixation on measurable data, whereby the actual goal is lost from sight.

Here it is argued that the critics confuse goals with an aim (in the sense of striving). Striving can be vague or visionary, but the goals are more specific and are meant to get people to work.

For example: “I want you (S) to change your behavior (R) so that you have less work (I / E) by next Friday (T). Will this work for you? (A) I suggest that we pursue this through 'this tool' (M) ”.
Proponents say that SMART enables managers to judge more objectively. The work done can be assessed based on the results in a limited time and employees can be paid for it. With goals that are SMART, an assessment can be made objectively or objectively by measuring their performance, and individuals can be rewarded or delayed.

If a goal is not SMART, proponents believe that performance is difficult to manage objectively. The presence and motivation of the tester or the subjective feeling of the evaluator must then be known.

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