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Smart thinking

Objectives are the stepping stones to your goals and the Smart move is to be clear about what those objectives are

John Joe McGinley, Business consultancy manager, Aegon
John Joe McGinley, Business consultancy manager, Aegon

I am a big fan of Get Smart, the US spoof secret agent series. It followed Maxwell Smart (aka Agent 86) and his experienced young partner Agent 99 as they investigated various threats, successfully saving the world each week. Smart was in fact anything but so their achievements tended to result from Agent 99’s skills or sheer luck.

Business success – luck or skill?
Many people put their success in business down to either great luck or great skill. I prefer a combination of both but I prefer my luck to be the result of effective preparation rather than leaving it in the lap of the gods.

Last month, I looked at preparing for and controlling events through goal-setting. Once you have your goals, it is time to set your objectives and as we know, the best of these are said to be Smart.

Many advisers I deal with quite rightly ask me the difference between a goal and an objective. It is important to be clear about this. Goals are about your aspirations, purpose and vision. Objectives are your plan of action, the stepping stones on the path to achieving the goals in your action plan.

An objective should:

  • Be a specific measureable description of a defined action
  • Describe the result of what you want to do – what, how much, by when
  • Be jointly agreed and prioritised between everyone involved
  • Be set right at the start of the action planning process
  • Be reviewed regularly to make sure it is still relevant
  • Provide a measurable performance standard for the business to work towards within an agreed timescale.

John Kirwan, in his book, Good Small Business Planning Guide, defines Smart as:
S: specific, stretching or significant
M: measureable, milestoned, motivating or meaningful
A: agreed, achievable, action-focused
R: realistic, rewarding or results-focused
T: time-bound, testing or trackable

What Smart really means for you
Make sure there is no ambiguity – the objective should have a specific outcome or activity to be undertaken and achieved.

Always be clear about when an objective will be achieved. Set targets, identify milestones. Be clear about the direction you wish to head in and why this objective helps you get there.

To start setting powerful objectives for your own business, have a look at our business planning website www.


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