Creating Smart Objectives

… a core concept in Leadership Skills and Atlas 109

SmartObjectivesConcept description

Jenette Nagy and Stephen Fawcett, writing in Community Tool Box (reference below), set out a process for creating objectives.

Creating objectives is the third step in VMOSA – Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Action Plans. Application of Nagy and Fawcett’s advice need not be restricted to community organizations. It can be applied to strategic planning in a wide variety of public management contexts.

Nagy and Fawcett define objectives as the specific measurable results of the initiative:

“An organization’s objectives offer specifics of how much of what will be accomplished by when. For example, one of several objectives for a community initiative to promote care and caring for older adults might be: “By 2020 (by when), to increase by 20% (how much) those elders reporting that they are in daily contact with someone who cares about them (of what).””

They say that the best objectives have several characteristics (S.M.A.R.T.+C.)

  • They are specific. That is, they tell how much (e.g., 40%) of what is to be achieved (e.g., what behavior of whom or what outcome) by when (e.g., by 2020)?
  • They are measurable. Information concerning the objective can be collected, detected, or obtained from records (at least potentially).
  • They are achievable. Not only are the objectives themselves possible, it is likely that your organization will be able to pull them off.
  • They are relevant to the mission. Your organization has a clear understanding of how these objectives fit in with the overall vision and mission of the group.
  • They are timed. Your organization has developed a timeline (a portion of which is made clear in the objectives) by which they will be achieved.
  • They are challenging. They stretch the group to set its aims on significant improvements that are important to members of the community.
How to create objectives

Nagy and Fawcett suggest the following process:

  • Define or reaffirm your vision and mission statements
  • Determine the changes to be made. There are many ways to do this, including:
    • Research what experts in your field believe to be the best ways to solve the problem. For many community issues, researchers have developed useful ideas of what needs to occur to see real progress. This information may be available through local libraries, the Internet, state and national agencies, national nonprofit groups, and university research groups.
    • Discuss with local experts what needs to occur. Some of the people with whom you may wish to talk include: Other members of your organization; Local experts, such as members of other, similar organizations who have a great deal of experience with the issue you are trying to change; Your agents of change, or the people in a position to contribute to the solution. Agents of change might include teachers, business leaders, church leaders, local politicians, community members, and members of the media; Your targets of change, the people who experience the problem or issue on a day-to-day basis and those people whose actions contribute to the problem. Changing their behavior will become the heart of your objectives.
    • Discuss the logistical requirements of your own organization to successfully address community needs. At the same time your organization is looking at what needs to happen in the community to solve the issue important to you, you should also consider what your organization requires to get that done.
  • Collect baseline data on the issues to be addressed. There are two basic ways to collect baseline data:
    • You can collect your own baseline data for the information related to your specific issues. Ways to gather this information include the use of surveys, questionnaires, and personal interviews.
    • You can use information that has already been collected. Public libraries, city government, social service agencies, local schools, or city health departments may already have the statistics that you want, especially if another organization has already done work on a similar issue in your community. Collect baseline data on the issues to be addressed. There are two basic ways to collect baseline data:
  • Decide what is realistic for your organization or initiative to accomplish. These questions are difficult ones to answer. It’s hard for a new organization to know what it can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. Your organization will need to take a good look at its resources, as well as talk to experts who have a sense of what is not only possible, but likely.
  • Set the objectives for your organization or initiative. With all of this information in mind, your organization is ready to set some short-term goals or objectives that are feasible but demanding. Remember, objectives refer to specific measurable results. These changes in behavior, outcome, and process must be able to be tracked and measured in such a way to show that a change has occurred.
    • Do your objectives each meet the criteria of “SMART+C”?
    • Is your list of objectives complete? That is, are there important objectives that are missing?
    • Are your objectives appropriate? Are any of your objectives controversial? If so, your organization needs to decide if it is ready to handle the storm that may arise. Review the objectives. Before you finalize your objectives, it makes sense for members of your organization to review them one more time, and possibly, ask people outside of your organization to review them as well. You can ask reviewers to comment on:
  • Use your objectives to define your organization’s strategies.

Jenette Nagy and Stephen B Fawcett, Creating Objectives, Community Tool Box, at, accessed 21 March 2016.

Atlas topic and subject

Strategizing (core topic) in Leadership Skills.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 24 March 2016.

Image: Practically Perfect PA, Smart Objectives, at, accessed 21 March 2016.