The best method to optimise chances of success for a project is to set objectives in order to define the tasks to be accomplished. For several years now, the SMART method has been promoted as a guarantee of success when setting objectives.

But what is this method, which is now widely recognised as a way to ensure success of a project?

Setting SMART objectives

Any ambitious project must be built around one or more objectives. SMART is an acronym to determine the attributes that an objective should have.

Definition of a SMART objective

A famous quotation from Abraham Lincoln helps us to understand the importance of defining a goal:

A goal properly set is halfway reached.

An objective is defined as a target to be reached. A SMART objective is an objective that is meant to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based


It’s kind of a “super” goal. The SMART method allows you to anchor an idea in a concrete reality and to estimate precisely the means necessary to make a project successful.

This management concept appeared through an article by George T. Doran, in 1981, in the American magazine, Management Review. This professor of management highlights the importance of objectives in the realisation of a project and the difficulty of setting them.

The SMART method has no boundaries. It can be used in different ways in all areas and departments of a company. It is not uncommon to encounter it in human resources management or in the marketing department.

Why use the SMART method?

The SMART method provides a solid and clear foundation for the successful completion of a project. In 2011, according to the Strategic Projects Observatory, 47% of those surveyed believe that more than half of their projects were successful. There is therefore a significant proportion of unsuccessful projects.

Setting realistic objectives using the SMART method is therefore an excellent way to avoid failure.

The main objective of this process is to save time and money by making good use of the company’s resources,while anticipating and avoiding obstacles to the success of a project.

What are the criteria for setting SMART objectives?

The SMART method consists of 5 criteria for setting objectives. Let’s find out more about these criteria and analyse them.

S for Specific

A goal that is meant to be SMART must be both precise and concrete. This step is very important. The more clearly an objective is formulated, the easier it will be to unmask the potential obstacles to its success.

A for Achievable

A SMART goal must be achievable. However, achievable does not mean that the project should not be ambitious. The capacity of the team and the means made available must be taken into account. The potential of each coworker and of each team, as well as the resources, must be taken into consideration.

R for Relevant

A project considered utopian will quickly lead to a loss of motivation and commitment. The objective must therefore be accessible, reasonable and relevant.

T for Time-Based

The last step when setting a SMART target is to set it in time. While it is important to clarify what (the specific) and how (the measurable), it is also essential to answer the question: when?

Steps for setting SMART objectives

The SMART method is a simple and very effective way of defining objectives in a team. Discover our practical step-by-step advice for applying this method in your company.

Setting smart objective

1. State your objectives

Your objective must be as clear and precise as possible. There should be no room for ambiguity.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • If I share my objective with an outside person, will they understand what I want to achieve without further explanation?
  • Should my objective be divided into several steps or sub-objectives to gain clarity?

To illustrate what we have just seen, we can create the following objective: I want to reduce my company’s turnover.

2. Quantify your objectives over time

Your objective must be quantified and time-based. If it is not measurable, it will be impossible for you to evaluate the outcome of your project. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • If I share my objective with an outside person, will they be able to evaluate the result of my project?
  • Does my objective have a deadline?
  • Is it possible to set up a follow-up through my objective?

Let’s go back to our previous objective: I want to reduce my company’s turnover. Here we are missing a quantified measure, as well as the notion of temporality, which we will add: I would like to reduce my company’s turnover by 50% in 2021.

3. Motivate your teams

Your objective must be ambitious enough to motivate your teams over the long term. But be careful not to be too ambitious. This could discourage your employees. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my team have the necessary means to achieve this objective?
  • Does my team have the necessary skills?
  • Is my goal ambitious enough to motivate my team?

Our goal is to reduce turnover in our company by 50% by 2021. Isn’t that too ambitious a goal? Opt for 30% so that your objective motivates your teams without discouraging them.

4. Be relevant

Finally, your objective must be relevant and adapted to the context of your company. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my objective adapted to the circumstances and our current environment?
  • Does my objective make sense for the company?



The SMART method makes it possible to define objectives as specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. It is a formidable method to guarantee the effectiveness of a project to be implemented. The most ambitious objectives are achieved step by step. You now have all the cards in hand to set SMART objectives for your teams and put all the chances on your side.


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