SMART Goal Setting — Measurable for Cubicle Warriors

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Mar 25

SMART goal setting is often used to establish the objectives for your work and your performance review. Yet, for cubicle warriors, the SMART goal setting process fails. Yesterday, we looked at the “specific” definition of the SMART acronym. Today, let’s look at the “M” for “measurable.”

One typical definition of Measurable:

A system, method or procedure has to exist which allows the tracking and recording of the behavior or action upon which the objective is focused.

Measurable is the most difficult aspect of determining success with a goal or objective. At best, the measurement is done at the department level — and that’s not the right place to measure for a Cubicle Warrior.

No, the place to be able to measure performance is at the individual work level. YOU. Not your department. Not your team. YOU.

Consider a typical goal for a development group:

Reduce defects by 15% from the previous year.

This goal is specific in that it addresses defects and ties a number to the defects. Assuming a baseline from the previous year, this could be a measurable goal.

But, it’s not measurable for the software developer working in a cube.

First, what’s the definition of a defect? You’d need to know the answer to this so you know what to measure.

In addition, you’d need to know where the defect is monitored. Is it a defect if it is caught in Unit Testing? Or is it a defect only after System Testing. Or once it goes into production? Where the defect is measured makes a big difference in working on the goal.

Finally, how is the defect tracked back to a specific developer? How do we know the code that each person worked and, if there is a handoff between coding modules where a defect occurs, how do we know which developer has the defect to measure?

The keys for producing a “measurable” goal for a knowledge worker is more complex than just being able to measure something at a department level:

  • The definition of what is being measured (what’s a defect?)
  • Where the objective is being measured (unit, functional, system testing?)
  • Tracking back the work to an individual (how do we know your performance is what is working the objective?)
  • Knowing how accountability between co-workers will be dealt with for the objective (my code was fine…his screwed it up)

Working on how your goals for your performance review are measured is a worthwhile endeavor at the beginning of the review cycle. If you and your manager can come up with a way to measure your goals that includes only your work, you’ll be a rare knowledge worker indeed.

Photo by Sean MacEntee


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.