We don’t need no acronyms

The SMART objective.

A management theory convention. 

Included in performance reviews everywhere.

Part of the organisational furniture.

Just one of those things that we often do but rarely question.

But oh so safe.

It is often said that we want agile, flexible organisations. That our aim is to have employees who are empowered and who have autonomy and take responsibility.

The SMART objective is none of these things. Will drive none of these things.

It is instead boxes to be ticked. It is formality.  It is both static and limiting.

Something to blow the dust off next year, to see if those things were ever done or still remotely relevant.

It is above all, emotionless.

We all know by now that the annual performance review, as we traditionally implement it at least, is fundamentally flawed. It neither aligns well with how we understand the brain to work and it rarely delivers on its stated purpose.  And everyone bloody well hates them for good measure.

The SMART objective, along with its BFF the Performance Development Plan, are now somewhat past their prime. Overdue for a rethink. 

Of course SMART goes beyond just the organisational context. In my Personal Training world its use is encouraged there too  It is the fitness industry officially approved process for getting clients to commit to and focus on their exercise goals.  But in this space, perhaps even more than many others, emotional connection is needed.  A powerful why along with a compelling vision and a big chunk of passion.  Not a box grid to fill in.  Not something that is time bound but something that is ambitious.  I don’t want my clients to be realistic, I want them to reach for the stars and make their dreams come true.  To go beyond what they believe is achievable. 

SMART has its place.  But it has its limitations too.

In seeking something better, I’m hoping not for another acronym or some new best goal setting practice. 

I want us to recognise that all we need is conversation about the future with emotion and purpose.   Genuine, regular dialogue with flexibility built right in. 

Something so fundamentally simple that it doesn’t need a framework to either teach it or remember it. 

Just conversation with purpose. 


Thank you to David Goddin for the tweet exchange that prompted these thoughts. 

4 thoughts on “We don’t need no acronyms

  1. HR Gem.. as always this is a brilliant post and even more brilliantly times – as I am about to have my appraisal.. I will try to have a purposeful conversation!

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