SMART Goals does not equal Smart Management

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Apr 03

The most popular articles on this site relate to SMART Goals — how to construct them, measure them, use them in performance reviews and how to track SMART Goals. Since most major companies use something similar to SMART Goals, you’d think that both management and employees would have a good sense as to results driven performance. You’d be wrong.

SMART goals could easily be used to drive a Results Only Work Environment, or ROWE. Yet, when the founders of ROWE go into a company that thinks they are ready for this results oriented — instead of time in the office — performance, they get the same responses:

Over the last few months, we’ve found ourselves in front of dozens of leadership groups and company teams that have made the statement “We think we’re ROWE already.”  It never fails – before people really know what ROWE is, they are living in a world where they are comfortable with what they’ve been doing to receive their paychecks.  Managers feel comfortable with how they’ve been managing.  Everyone is complacent.  And then ROWE is introduced…

All of a sudden, panic ensues because lo and behold, measurable goals have not been defined and don’t exist.

“We can’t move into this environment until we define our goals.”

“I don’t really know what’s expected of me.”

“This is going to make my job as a manager more difficult…I need to get clear with my employees on their performance measures.”

“My goals are too subjective, which is why my manager and I always disagree about my performance at appraisal time.”

Yet, if you were a Cubicle Warrior, you’d already know that. When you negotiate your SMART goals with your manager, you find out how often management has no way to measure your specific performance. Or how your goal today doesn’t make much sense three months from now but your manager won’t modify your goal.

Too often, employees and managers play this silly game of getting meaningless goals that do not impact results-driven behavior. Then the meaningless goals end up on the performance review rating as whoever the manager has as a favorite — instead of results.

High performing people — Cubicle Warriors — want to be measured and compared on their results. That’s why a Results Only Work Environment is so freeing and productive. If you are not managing your SMART goals with your manager in relation to your performance, you leave too much of your worth on the table.

Just because your department uses SMART Goals doesn’t mean your management is smart. It just means something that looks like a goal is on your review form, whether it truly measures your performance or not.

Do you have SMART Goals that are not really SMART?


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.

  • Ashley Acker says:

    Scot – Great post! I agree with your POV on this topic, especially that high performing people want to be measured and rewarded based on the results they produce – nothing more, nothing less.

    I did a survey recently and people told me their primary cause of stress and frustration at work was unclear priorities and objectives, and an overall lack of direction. They weren’t certain what was expected of them, when it was due, and didn’t know what the boss thought was most important.

    I’m a huge fan of ROWE, but regardless of whether or not you work in a ROWE, everyone – managers and employees alike – should be clear on the results they are responsible for and understand how to measure performance.

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