Like it or not, SMART objectives appear to be such a staple part of performance management that there are probably very few organisations where managers aren’t encouraged to discuss these on a regular basis with their direct reports. There are however strong arguments against the whole Management by Objectives approach popularised by Peter Drucker in his 1954 book The Practice of Management; some of these can be found in While we’re binning appraisal systems, let’s shred the SMART objectives too.
If it’s impossible to escape objective setting altogether, instead of just focusing on ensuring that they are truly SMART, it could be useful to double-check that at the very least they avoid being DUMB.
DUMB objectives are:
Detached (or maybe semi-detached) from the organisation’s business plan
Unachievable – because the individual doesn’t have the necessary resources, skills, time, development or support
Mindless – what’s to get excited about?
Baffling – no clarity about exactly what action and/or outcomes are wanted