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SMART Goals, HARD Goals and LOST Goals

December 09, 2010

We’re getting close to the end of the year, start of the next.  For many of us,
that inevitably brings up the topics of goals, past and future.   I’m writing
this blog about the topic of lost goals… you know, ones that you set but
didn’t really get to in the past year.

Quick, how do you avoid losing track of goals, e.g. acheive goals?

Goal dialThere’s a lot of literature on goals, goal setting and
the best way to go about it.   All of which would
suggest that if you follow some certain
methodology, you won’t lose track of your
, and in fact achieve them.

One well know approach for avoiding lost goals
is captured by the acronym SMART – which has been used to implicitly
define how one should structure goals so that you don’t lose your way
in achieving them.   You know; specific, measurable, actionable, realistic
and time bound.

More recently Leadership IQ has come up with their preferred
acronym, suggesting that SMART goals is actually a dumb approach.
Their acronym, HARD, suggest that in order to elicit and/or support
follow through, goals should be:
1. Heart felt
2. Animated, easy to visualize
3. Required – critical to continued existence, not just a formality, and
4. Difficult – forcing the achievers to go beyond current achievement levels.

Is there really an approach that works best?  And if so why isn’t
everyone using it so they don’t lose track of their goals? 

If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find that if you do a
search on lost goals, 80% of the listings are related to weight loss, or
the lack of completing weight loss goals.  Does that mean all the people
trying to lose weight aren’t using the right SMART or HARD approach?

If you look beyond the personal or organizational level,  it seems the
World (all of us) didn’t fare much better at global goals.  At this fall’s
world summit, the Independent’s headlines framed the World’s success
at achieving its 10 year goals as: World Fails to Deliver on 8 Key Target Goals
the details of the summit supported the title quite well.

These goals all seem to fit the HARD acronym, yet after 5 years the
lack of more progress is frustrating.  What gives?  Why such a big
disconnect between setting goals and delivering outcomes?

What if the approach does matter, having something heart felt would
certainly seem to be a better predictor than a ho-hum attitude?

But what if there were really two variables that are the actual predictors
of outcomes, neither of which are dependent upon approach?

I think the two variables you need to track are T & O.  Time and Obstacles.

It’s the same two issues, the same two questions, with whomever
I’m working, at the personal or the enterprise level, nationally or internationally.

Whether or not goals will be achieved or lost, given that they are
grounded in reality, is directly attributable to whether people will:

1. Spend the time it takes
2. Remove the obstacles encountered, e.g. make the changes necessary


There are multiple approaches to achieving (versus losing sight of) goals.
Current acronyms of SMART and HARD outline such approaches.  However,
I see goals get achieved or lost based primarily on just two variables, Time
and Obstacles.  What people and organizations do with these two variables,
starting day one, is my best predictor of whether goals will be lost,  with the
specific approach being less significant.  Again, it’s not the approach, it’s
 T & O  – the willingness to put in the time and remove the obstacles.


Most of What You’ve Read About Smart Goals is Wrong

Goal/Outcome Based software for running your team… your business

1 Comment. Leave new

Awesome blog.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on…


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