Value Management: SMARTER than SMART

Most of us are probably familiar with the concept of SMART goals. Value Management not only encapsulates SMART, but takes it further in four ways: meeting the challenge of Measurability, encapsulating outcomes as well as goals, doubling-up the SMART and making everything SMARTER. Let’s see how.

The concept of SMART goals has proven very popular and powerful since it was first formulated in the early 1980s, and most of us have probably come across at it at some point or other.

The fundamental idea is that the mnemonic sets out antidotes to common issues when it comes to formulating and reaching goals, and most versions involve only one or two minor changes from:

  • Specific – counteracting the tendency for goals to be too vague.
  • Measurable – to later establish if progress is being made towards goals or not.
  • Achievable – goals need to be realistic, including in consideration of the resources available.
  • Relevant – relevance of goals to any overarching purpose; relevance to those trying to fulfil them.
  • Time-bound – pushing back on the tendency for goals to be open-ended and/or not be reviewed.

And the results are notable, with one study suggesting that SMART goals are almost twice as likely to be reached.

Whilst there are some criticisms of SMART goals made – see here, for example – they’re usually based on how SMART is applied; not really challenging the concept itself.

Overall, then, it seems safe to say that SMART goals – at least when used thoughtfully – work.

But could they work even better? We think they can.

What’s more, we think we achieve exactly that with Value Management.

Achieving True “Measurability”

The first thing to look at is how the concept of SMART goals has succeeded even though people don’t do “SMART” in full.

The originator of SMART anticipated this, saying “It should also be understood that the suggested acronym doesn’t mean that every objective written will have all five criteria“.

In practice, though, it is usually Measurable that is challenged most, e.g. as this piece puts it, “Not everything that matters can be measured. Not everything that we can measure matters.

Now, there’s a truth here – just because something can be measured absolutely doesn’t mean that it should be – but we think the issue isn’t measurability per se; it’s with the type of measurability.

Because, far too often, what is being assumed is hard and quantitative measures, which absolutely don’t work for “everything that matters”.

Indeed, the fundamental concept of our Value Management approach is “Things That Matter“, and we emphasise how the most important of these are usually subjective and intangible.

But these things can and should be measured, and – indeed – our Value Coding approach is precisely the process by which this happens, solving the hitherto intractability of fusing objective measurability with these subjective Things That Matter.

Watch our videos that explain exactly how this is achieved.

With Value Management, we therefore have everything that SMART has focused on to date:

  • Specific – Value Codes are precise, focused and detailed in what they cover, and they specifically relate to agreed Things That Matter.
  • Measurable – as we’ve just seen, the part of “SMART” that we’ve refined and extended so it can be retained in all circumstances.
  • Achievable – Value Codes are written by those that need to achieve the goals, they show what needs to be achieved and they guide how to get there.
  • Relevant – Value Codes flow directly from the Things That Matter; they couldn’t be any more relevant!
  • Time-bound – ARC Diagnostics actively encourage and make possible the scheduling of rapid evaluation iterations so that nothing “drifts”.

But that’s only the start of the difference that Value Management makes.

Outcomes and Goals

The next improvement that Value Management makes on SMART is in moving beyond goals to also encapsulate outcomes.

Now, people can – and people do – discuss and debate the differences between “goals”, “aims”, “objectives” and “targets” in the established context for SMART.

And, sometimes, “outcomes” is proposed to be just another synonym here, too.

But whilst we probably can’t settle the semantic debate in this article, a helpful distinction is made in this Forbes piece:

…the journey to achievement starts with a goal and finishes with a desired outcome. It is important to have clarity about each of these, as one of them represents a beginning step and the other represents a final result.

Here are the two main differences between goals and desired outcomes:

  • Goals are part of an umbrella spectrum, while outcomes are specific and precise.
  • Goals are generally not measurable, while outcomes are observable and measurable.

In other words, but the difference that makes a difference is that goals are at the start, whilst outcomes are at the end, making the journey in between all-important (where we’ve already then covered the measurability point)…

…and the point here is that Value Codes are precisely the means by which to reach your goals through describing a stepped series of outcomes, each of which gets closer to that goal.

In other words, Value Management is not just “what good looks like” but also “how to get there” – both goals and outcomes.

And that’s even more SMART

…but there’s more.

Doubling the SMART: the Human Dimension

I mentioned above how there are lots of variations of “SMART“, with people typically tweaking one or two elements (e.g. the original 1981 version had “Assignable” instead of “Achievable”).

Value Management goes further, though.

And it does so by considering not just the nature of outcomes and goals (the main focus of SMART to date) but also who is formulating them and who they are for.

There are two key elements of Value Management involved here:

  1. The process of Value Coding, where the (subjective) Things That Matter are collaboratively reframed into (objectively) measurable Value Codes that reflect how people most effectively think and work.
  2. ARC Diagnostics, which present the Value Codes within the context of their associated Things That Matter for wide-scale evaluation.

Together, Value Coding and ARC Diagnostics achieve the following “SMART” human dimension for goals and outcomes:

  • Self-defined – people get to articulate for themselves (in Value Codes) what good looks like.
  • Motivating – not only is self-ownership of Value Codes motivating, but they go motivate by showing what the desired states look like and guiding what has to happen to get there.
  • Agreed – not only are Value Codes collectively authored, but – through ARC Diagnostics – they are collectively refined and their current and desired states mutually agreed through evaluation.
  • Results-based – Value Codes are all anchored in the Things That Matter – the results people want and need – and their entire trajectory is to lead people from where they are to where they want to be.
  • Transparent – ARC Diagnostics not only “publish” goals to everyone, but their reporting output makes entirely clear to everyone what the current state is, makes it possible to agree the desired state, and shows how to close the gap.

By also focusing on the humans “behind” the goals and outcomes, Value Management therefore doubles the SMART.

But that’s not all because – with ARC DiagnosticsValue Management makes even further improvements on “SMART” by extending it.

When SMART becomes SMARTER

Now, we have to concede we’re not the first to extend “SMART” or even to specifically extend it to “SMARTER”.

But we think we pretty much cover all those other attempts whilst adding in a key new concept.

And, because we have added the human dimension alongside considering the goals themselves, we extend it twice!

In terms of the goals themselves, the SMARTER goals of Value Management are:

  • Evaluated: whilst evaluation is implicit in “Measurable” – why make it measurable if you’re not going to measure it? – we make it explicit, and Evaluated (subjective) also complements Measurable (objective) for a fully holistic approach.
  • Reviewed: the necessary companion to “Evaluated” , this means three things: considering the validity of the goal or outcome, considering its relative priority and considering the extent of progress towards fulfilling it.

On both these points, SMARTER goals and outcomes are therefore not static; instead, they undergo rapid and iterative evaluation and review – all made possible through ARC Diagnostics.

The, with what we’re calling the human dimension, the SMARTER goals of Value Management are:

  • Engaging: not a word we’ve seen (although “Exciting” approaches it), and we achieve it in two ways: the nature of Value Codes being to engage people by showing them that what matters to them is being measured and by showing them a possible future; ARC Diagnostics making it possible for everyone to be engaged and involved.
  • Realised: an entirely new concept we’ve not seen anywhere else.

To develop this latter point, other “R” words we’ve seen are “Reviewed” (see above), “Recorded” (which Value Coding obviously covers), “Resourced” (which we think is covered by “Realistic”; see above) and “Reach” (encouraging ambition, which we think “Motivational” does; again see above).

But nobody seems to have used “Realised”, and whilst the implicit purpose of goals is to get something done and completed, we think – like with “Evaluated” – it bears making “Realised” explicit, and the entire thrust of Value Management is to focus on, make progress with and realise the Things That Matter

…to the humans involved.

In Conclusion

SMART goals and outcomes work – especially when you’re SMART with both.

Value Management recognises and responds to this, encapsulating everything so far used in variations of “SMART“, and especially in assuring that Measurability is always achieved.

But Value Management also goes further:

  • Doubling-up the SMART by adding the human dimension of setting and pursuing goals and outcomes, alongside the nature of those goals and outcomes themselves.
  • Making SMART goals and outcomes SMARTER by extending those two dimensions.

Are you ready to embrace SMARTER goals and outcomes that actively work and serve the people pursuing them?