Why your SMART goals and KPIs haven’t gotten your business anywhere

We’ve been told this a lot: SMART goals and KPIs are the way forward for your business. These goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound, and are held up as the gold standard for push play on progress towards a long-term goal. But, somehow, they don’t always seem to work. Why is that? The reality is that SMART goals and KPIs can have a few fatal flaws – and they could be holding you back from achieving your dreams.

1.   When the goal detracts from the big picture

A SMART goal is laser focussed. That sounds like a good thing, but often it’s not. Because you’ve made this goal so achievable and measurable, it can be easy to see it as the only goalpost. You stop looking at the context, what’s happening in the industry and markets, and the overarching company issues. Forgetting to pop your head above the immediate goal, and check out what’s happening around you, may mean that your goal isn’t heading in the same direction as your business any more.

2.   Success is more than just one goal

A SMART goal succeeds by its very narrowness. It allows you and your team to focus solely on that task and work hard to achieve it. But what happens if you don’t get there? If there’s an external or internal factor that stops you reaching this goal, you may start to feel as though your efforts are meaningless. All you’ll see is the loss, unable to acknowledge the work that went into achieving it, and how far you’ve come. That can be incredibly demotivating, and stop you in your tracks.

3.   Box-ticking can be counter productive

If you have short term goals peppered along that long road to ultimate success, you and your team will, understandably, want to meet those. Sometimes in the haste to meet those goals, you could end up sacrificing long term results. For instance, you may take on work you shouldn’t, or shuffle around some figures from one period to the next, just to boost that month’s goals.

4.   Once you reach that goal, you stop

If someone decides to run a marathon, they’ll often train for it, successfully complete it, then stop running. Once they’ve reached their target, people can feel like they can relax, put up their feet, and resume normal life.

Setting a SMART goal can motivate you to that finish line, but once you’ve crossed that tape, it’s like a sign you can have a cup of tea and biscuit. Success is a process of constantly striving for more, and achieving those mini goals could hold you back from that.

5.   Too many DEFCON 1s

High achievers tend to overload themselves, making everything a priority – and that’s obviously not sustainable. Goals have a way of setting up everything as the Most Important, which, of course, makes priorities meaningless.

Goals need to be looked at not just individually, but as a holistic package. What, really, deserves to be at number one on your list?

If in doubt, hire a professional

  • All these SMART goal flaws can be overcome – you just have to do it right, or risk putting a hole in your own boat. The best way is to hire a business coach. An external consultant will:

  • Help you to continually review those goals, to make sure they are taking you in the right direction

  • Give you some external perspective, helping you see how far you’ve come and how totally do-able the rest of the journey is

  • See that while you’re still focussed on those SMART goals, you’re also keeping that overarching vision in mind

  • Ensure your goals are challenging enough

  • Add external motivation to push through and create new goals, to reach your full potential


Get SMART goals right and get on your way

You need direction for your business and goals for your staff – SMART goals and KPIs can do that – but they need to be used carefully. Having a focus that’s too narrow or pointed in the wrong direction may lead to failure – of individuals and the business. Similarly, busily ticking off goals without the big picture in mind may lead to short cuts that deliver short term gain but strip your chances of reaching your overarching goal. They can also hamstring people, by not challenging them enough or letting them think they can relax once a smaller goal is met.

A business coach can help make sure your SMART goals are attainable, and that you’re not selling yourself short. They’ll help you keep an eye on the other factors that are at play around you, and push you to reassess and reset your short-term goals. And that means you get the best of both worlds – the satisfaction of those regular wins, while knowing you’re still on your way to achieving your dreams.

Get in touch with the team at Thrive CA today if you need help with your goals and making sure you are working towards them.