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Get SMART and FAST at Setting Goals

One of the most powerful ways to harness motivation, create clarity, and drive for performance is through goal setting. Typically, goals come in two forms: a learning goal or a performance goal. A learning goal aims to harness knowledge or skill whereas a performance goal focuses on executing acquired skills to create an optimal result.

Here are two different approaches to help yourself, your team, or your organization set and accomplish goals. 

S.M.A.R.T Goals 

As one of the most well-known frameworks for setting a goal, individuals leverage this framework by building goals that are: 

  • Specific  

  • Measurable  

  • Achievable  

  • Relevant  

  • Time-bound  

For example, a manager may set a goal that by the end of the next quarter, the team will increase revenue by 5%. This goal specifically focuses on increasing revenue; it is measurable, and we assume 5% is achievable; revenue is a relevant metric in business, and the goal is time-bound as it is set for the end of the quarter. 

F.A.S.T. Goals 

In a 2018 Sloan Management Review article, Donald and Charles Sull share their F.A.S.T method

  • Frequent discussions;  

  • Ambitious in scope; measured by  

  • Specific metrics and milestones; and  

  • Transparent for everyone in the organization to see. 

In the F.A.S.T method, goals are frequently discussed and reviewed to ensure resources are allocated, initiatives are prioritized, and feedback is provided. These goals are ambitious, meaning they stretch and challenge us but are not impossible to achieve. The goal also needs to have clear and specific milestones and metrics that help measure progress from start to finish. Lastly, the goal needs to be transparent, meaning individuals, teammates, and leaders should have access and visibility to the progress and performance of the work being completed. 

Example of F.A.S.T. 

Here is a way to use the F.A.S.T method on your next sizeable end-of-the-term team project.  

  • Frequent: At the beginning of the project, rally your teammates by scheduling weekly discussions to prioritize tasks and give each other feedback.  

  • Ambitious: The team could also spend time identifying what areas the project will stretch, challenge them, and discuss the impact of the outcome. For example, someone could share that the project will give them new skills in an area that will help them get a particular type of job out of college, and the grade will help them as they apply for scholarships. 

  • Specific: Please take a look at any instructions and deliverables provided by the professor along with the deadlines typically found in the syllabus, then build a schedule and timeline with specific metrics that the team will use to measure their progress toward the outcome. Then, as the group frequently meets these milestones can be evaluated, amended, and updated to keep the team on track. This process also creates clarity and individual and mutual accountability for everyone on the team.

  • Transparent: Lastly, create transparency by sharing progress and updates in a meaningful way. Teams can use various tools to create transparency, including a meeting, a spreadsheet, a message board, or a text chain that allows team members to make their progress and work visible to all involved in the project.  

Additionally, you could talk with your professor, share the approach you are using, and connect with them with an email update or schedule time with the professor during office hours to share the team's progress. 

Whether you are being S.M.A.R.T with your goals or going F.A.S.T., leveraging a proven framework will help you attain your result and enhance your skills as a leader, manager, and teammate.  

About the Author

For many learners, their business education journey begins with Introduction to Business. Tim has had the pleasure of educating numerous unique students in this course. His innovative teaching methods, applications of learning science, and educational technology have taken this foundational course to the next level. He arms students with the skills needed to perform like pros in the world of work, excel in future college courses, build wealth, and become savvy consumers. Tim has been teaching marketing, management, and entrepreneurship courses at Green River College in Auburn, Washington, since 2010. He was tenured in 2015 and is best known for co-creating and then leading the country's first Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. Tim also developed an Applied Management BAS program. Affordable has recognized the Marketing & Entrepreneurship program as the #1 most affordable entrepreneurship program in the country and the #7 most affordable entrepreneurship program by UniversityHQ. Tim is a recipient of Green River College's Distinguished Faculty Award. In addition to teaching and authoring, Tim works in the technology industry as a Senior Manager at Microsoft, which provides him the ability to bridge the divide between today's higher education curriculum and the rapidly changing needs of today's employers. While Tim serves in many roles, his most important role is as husband to his wife, Danielle, and dad to his sons, Raymond and Joey.

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