Objective Setting Done Right

Objective Setting Done Right

Objectives are all over the place, definitely when a new year starts.
Now, think twice before agreeing on your objectives or targets.

Although ‘S.M.A.R.T’ is probably one of the most often used acronyms in business for more 30 years, it just does’nt work.

The acronym has done it’s job in pointing out how important clear objective and goals are in business.
However, few companies manage to be ‘SMART-compliant’.

Except for the ‘Measurable’ criteria, the SMART framework misses the bigger picture.
Large and small corporations often make the following mistakes:

  • Objectives are copied or slightly modified from last year.
  • No long term focus domains or ‘end games’ are defined.
  • No difference has been made between lead & lag measures.
  • Only top down objective setting has been done.
  • No in between celebration moments have been set.

Based on the shortcomings of the narrow S.M.A.R.T. framework, the following criteria could be a good alternative:

  • Joint objective setting: to create commitment from teams, a top-down and bottom-up process is crucial. It will not only make the teams feel involved, it will also stimulate creativity in finding ways (key results) to get there. It will also lead to attainable objectives.
  • Long term based: define 3-5 long term goals (3-5 years) or focus domains that are aspirational. Make sure 80% of your objectives are contributing to one of these focus domains.
  • OKR, indicate Lead & Lag indicators: make a difference between activities (key results) that are leading to the achievement of an objective (lag measures). Note: OKR or Objectives & Key Results is the term what mostly is used in the Anglo Saxon area and can be confusing for Europeans.
  • Measurable: make sure every objective and every indicator can be measured, it will automatically lead to a specific objective.
  • Celebrate successes: to keep troops motivated along the way, make sure to celebrate small succeses and to adjust along the way if needed.


We gloriously failed finding a good acronym, so remembering the following sentence might help: Define long term strategic focus domains and jointly set-up activities and objectives (OKR) that you can measure and celebrate.


PS: if you find a good acronym, we will reward you with eternal glory.


Written by : Frie Pétré

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