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One of the top methodologies we use as leaders and team members at IA is S.M.A.R.T. management. Typically, people recognize this acronym as a simple way to remember how to create actionable goals, but we take it much further on our team and for our clients. For us, S.M.A.R.T. is a verb and we use it to aid in every area of our business from communication, to delegation, and more.

Not only do we use it as a daily practice around our office, but we teach our clients how to implement S.M.A.R.T. management methods, too. This helps them avoid common business issues which we will discuss in this blog. Implementing S.M.A.R.T. is easy, as long as you work to make it a positive habit and hold yourself and others accountable.

Using S.M.A.R.T. as a Verb

For those of you who are not familiar with using S.M.A.R.T. as a goal setting process, the acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. This means that—in traditional goal setting—you ensure your goal is specific. As a verb and common practice in your organization, being specific around communication and your actions is an intentional step to help avoid confusion, scope creep, and having to repeat yourself. Sometimes questions are asked in earnest, but sometimes (if you aren’t being specific enough) questions are repeated. People are not mind readers! This can cause frustration for you and your team, so if you notice that the same questions are being asked, you know you haven’t been specific enough. Back up and speak with more clarity. Ask where someone is lost to help them get on the same page with you.

Being measurable is all about setting the appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) for your team. If you can’t measure it, you can’t control it. One of the best things about using KPIs is they help motivate your team; people naturally give more attention to things that they see are measured because it inspires them to keep going and do better. When behaving in an attainable manner, ensure all delegation and tasks are given to someone who is capable, trained, and understands how to use the proper tools to complete that task.

Through all of this, you must ensure that what you ask yourself and your team to do is realistic. For example, do they have the tools they need? By setting unrealistic standards, you may alienate team members and can cause quality issues, jeopardize safety, and demoralize your team. If you don’t put every action you take and ask for to a timeline, you can’t measure its progress. Setting reasonable timelines is imperative to achieving success and must be reviewed consistently to determine if there are any deviations from the original plan or if unforeseen issues need to be addressed to alter the timeline. Use S.M.A.R.T. communication to relay these changes to all team members.

Issues with Ignoring S.M.A.R.T. Management

One of the top reasons we teach this methodology to our clients is because we have seen first-hand the issues that ensue when failing to use the S.M.A.R.T. management process. These issues primarily include issues in dealing with triage management, neglecting to identify the root cause of issues, and fracturing communication (leader’s #1 retention strategy for high-performing employees). Triage is a management protocol that structures the incoming workflow by priority so that the most critical work is attended to first. It is the management of organizing the tasks or work in order of importance – prioritizing or triaging the work. If this process is not performed in a S.M.A.R.T. way, clients and team members may get frustrated and confused, work can be lost and forgotten, and more.

Identifying the root cause of an issue requires S.M.A.R.T., but first you must slow down. In times when you need to identify the root cause of issues, you need objective, open, and honest communication. Without this, you will never find the root of an issue. You and your team need to avoid self-justification, which is the ego’s need to protect itself from harm. Take a deep breath, recenter yourself, and just listen to learn. Gather as much information as you can without drawing any conclusions and review it at a time when you are willing to be objective.

Poor communication with your team will exacerbate triage issues. Consider how often you or others on your team say, “That’s not my job/problem.” This can lead to culture issues where work is not performed and clients or team members are left unhappy. When you act or react inconsistently, you can begin to take others for granted and this type of communication does not signal appreciation for each team member’s contribution to the group. By using S.M.A.R.T. for your actions, you slow every step down to the present moment to ensure nothing is missed and everyone is kept on the same page.

How to Implement S.M.A.R.T. Management

As mentioned, the number one thing you need to do to implement S.M.A.R.T. management on your team is to slow down. This is hard for those of us that are constantly fast-paced, but you may find that slowing down actually feels good every once in a while. It allows you to be present, think consciously and clearly, and discern fact from fiction. In order to achieve S.M.A.R.T. management as a daily practice, you must be mindful to make it a habit. Creating a new habit is all about constant practice for 21-60 days, self and outsourced accountability, and the will to want to implement something new into your life.

One way to start doing this is to write down your daily intentions. For S.M.A.R.T. management, these intentions might look like:

  • I intend to be specific in my communication and patient to ensure everyone maintains and equal understanding.
  • I intend to measure every task I delegate to empower my team and help them feel motivated to keep moving forward.
  • I intend to confirm that all team members have the training and knowledge they need to attain their tasks and goals.
  • I intend to set realistic goals so that my team and I do not feel polarized and disempowered by an unachievable goal.
  • I intend to set timelines for all tasks so all team members know what is expected of them at what time, as well as consistently reviewing these timelines for scope creep or other issues that may present themselves.

If you’re interested in learning more about habit development, read this blog: How to Build Healthy Habits

In addition to daily intentions, you might want to keep a list of questions handy to ensure you are performing the full S.M.A.R.T. management process. Some of these questions may include:

Specific

Who is involved? What do I want to accomplish? Where will this be achieved? When do I want to achieve this? Why do I want to achieve this?

Measurable

How many/much X will I need? How will I know I have reached my goal? What will I use to be an indicator of progress?

Attainable

Do I have the funds/resources/capabilities to reach this? If not, what am I missing or how can I get it? Are there any roadblocks?

Realistic

Is it realistic? Is it worth my time? Is this the right time to try to reach this? Does this match other efforts/needs?

Timely

Do I have a deadline? When do I want to achieve this? What else is going on in my life (or my team’s lives) during this timeline?

Implementing S.M.A.R.T. management practices across your entire organization is the key to building a high-performing team. If you want a team that communicates clearly, supports one another, has positive team culture, and produces quality results, you will want to learn the S.M.A.R.T. management process and teach them about it, too. If you are struggling with accountability or would like more help on implementing S.M.A.R.T. management in your business, contact IA Business Advisors today. We would love to help you stay accountable and imbed new, healthy habits into your business for future growth.

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Mary Smith

Mary has been with IA Business Advisors for 6 years. She graduated with a bachelor's in English literature with a minor in psychology, and is currently working towards her master's in organizational leadership. She enjoys writing and produces blogs for IA and several of IA's clients. Her favorite aspect of writing is the research.

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