How to Drive Project Success Using SMART Goals

SMART Goals | By Duncan Haughey | Read time minutes

The word SMART with the acronym spelt out in colourful words underneath

Once you have planned your project, turn your attention to developing several goals to drive your project's success. Your goals should be SMART, specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based.

A goal might be to hold a weekly project meeting with the key members of your team or to organise and run a continuous test programme throughout the project.

The original acronym tied the five highlighted criteria together. Since then, SMART has developed several subtly different variations. These variations provide a more comprehensive definition for goal setting.

Sspecific, significant, stretching
Mmeasurable, meaningful, motivational
Aagreed upon, assignable, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
Rrealistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented, recorded
Ttime-based, time-related, timely, time-bound, time-framed, time-limited, tangible, trackable

This broader definition will help you to be successful in both your business and personal life.

When you next run a project, take a moment to consider whether your goals are SMART goals.

The renowned American philosopher and writer Elbert Hubbard summed up life without goals best when he said:

Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage, but simply because they have never organised their energies around a goal.

A colourful SMART goals diagram with words and icons



Precisely what is it you want to achieve in your business and personal life? A good goal statement explains the what, why, who, where and when of a goal. If your goal statement is vague, you will find it hard to achieve because it will be difficult to define success.


You must be able to track progress and measure the result of your goal. A good goal statement answers the question, how much or how many. How will I know when I have achieved my goal?

Agreed Upon

Your goal must be relevant to your stakeholders. You should have an explicit agreement with them. Examples of people to agree your goal with are your line manager, employees and customers.


Is your goal achievable? Your goal should be stretching but realistic and relevant to you and your company. Make sure the actions you need to take to achieve your goal are things within your control.


Goals must have a deadline. A good goal statement will answer the question, when will I achieve my goal? Without time limits, it's easy to put goals off and leave them to die. As well as a deadline, it's a good idea to set some short-term milestones along the way to help you measure progress.

Another variation of SMART is SMARTER, with the 'E' standing for ethical and the 'R' standing for recorded.


Goals must sit comfortably within your moral compass. Most people resist acting unethically. Set goals that meet a high ethical standard.


Always write down your goal before you start working towards it. Written goals are visible and have a greater chance of success. The recording is necessary for the planning, monitoring, and reviewing of progress.

Learn How to Write a SMART Goal

The Origins of SMART

Suppose you are wondering about the origins of SMART goals. In that case, general acceptance is that the acronym was first written down in November 1981 in Spokane, Washington by George T. Doran, a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company. You can find out more information in the article A Brief History of SMART Goals.

Download our SMARTER Goals template

Recommended read: What's the Difference Between Goals, Aims and Objectives?, by Duncan Haughey.


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