Skip to main content


Writing SMART GoalsCascading Goals

Goal Alignment is critical for organizational success:

  • Employees need to be able to see how day-to-day tasks support the mission.

  • Goals must cascade from mission down though the organization (see figure on right).

  • Results in employees feeling that the work has importance. There is a significant relationship between feeling work is important and employee engagement.

Each goal must be written in the "SMART" format meaning specific, measurable, attainable, results oriented and time bound.

S - M - A - R - T


Specific means that an observable action, behavior, or achievement is described.

A goal should describe the specific work of the employee.  

In being specific a goal should give someone unfamiliar with the position an idea of what type of work the employee does on a daily basis.

The objective or goal should be specific about the result—not the way it is achieved.


A good measure will let an employee know how he or she can identify when a goal has been accomplished.

It should measure the result or outcome.   Sometimes it is helpful to measure what is done along the way (outputs) as an indicator or progress, but most goals focus on the results.

All measures are not numbers, sometimes they are objective quality standards.

When determining a measure the most common are:

      • QUANTITY : These can be numbers, percentages, rates or frequencies.   If there are already targets or project numbers they can become the goal.   Make sure to identify how the data will be tracked.
      • QUALITY : To identify a quality measure start with outside sources (i.e. national or industry standards, requirements of state or federal funders, best-practices of community colleges, colleges in Ohio ).   If there are none existing, discuss what it would look like if it were successful and identify how that will be known or captured.   Then, use existing data collection sources or put them in place as needed.   As long as everyone is aware of what the measure is and how it will be measured, a quality measure can be developed internally.  
      • Other measures include: COST : This may be stated in cost-savings, usually at a department or divisional level.   TIMELINESS: In SMART goals one is usually already present.


It is important to ask if a goal can realistically be accomplished in the time allowed with the given resources.

It is important to ask if the necessary resources available such as time, equipment, money, etc.

The best goals, or objectives, require employees to stretch to obtain them—but they are not extreme.

Goals set too high or too low become meaningless or frustrating, and may come to be ignored.


Results oriented means that things get done and goals are accomplished.

Make sure that there is an outcome, or result, for a goal.

Individual results need to support the plans for the department and division.


It is necessary with goals to have deadlines.  

Goals should be limited to the performance year in which they are to be completed.