Real World Examples of Improved Strategic Execution With SMART Goals

Setting strategic goals helps company leaders enhance and improve performance levels and existing processes.¬†SMART goals are among the most popular methods for business leaders to¬†work toward¬†those targets. You don’t hear many senior leaders mentioning them to the press or on results calls. But if you read between the lines, you can see real-world¬†organizational¬†goal examples everywhere. You just need to know what they look like.

In This Article

Strategic Goals and Objectives Recap

Before¬†discussing¬†one such SMART goal-setting example involving General Motors, let’s do a quick SMART recap. To begin with, the first step in goal setting for any manager is to evaluate the current state of your business. After all, it’s much easier to define where you want to go once you know where¬†you are.

Remember, anyone can set amorphous targets for where they wish to go. Truly seasoned leaders set specific goals and¬†implement¬†systems¬†to ensure their achievement. SMART goals are just one of many goal-setting systems.¬†It’s an effective and¬†easy way to start for most organizations.

Whatever platform you choose, you should know the true challenge in goal setting is to do so in a way that will align teams around common objectives. This may sound simple, but the reality is some of the most talented people¬†are very aspirational, so often,¬†there’s a gap¬†in¬†translating their aspirations¬†into results.¬†It’s¬†not due to a lack of effort¬†‚ÄĒ they¬†simply lack a system that transforms their aspiration into action. The SMART methodology serves as a starting point for such an action-oriented system.¬†Here are¬†a few key SMART goal example rules to keep in mind:

  1. Be specific: SMART goals are specific, and specificity gives us focus. This leads to people truly getting strategic things done. Note we never want to confuse being busy with being strategic. Clearly articulating company goals in a simple format makes broad aspirations much more achievable.
  2. Measure success:¬†Measuring specific success levels¬†sufficiently is a critical component of achieving results. Quantifying performance outcomes makes it much easier for managers to make decisions. There’s no room for debate when¬†goals have a target number.
  3. Achievable: A simple way to make goals achievable is to break them down into pieces. When they become more manageable components, goal achievement becomes much more feasible and tangible.
  4. Relevancy:¬†Relevant goals move the¬†company’s needle¬†in a wider and more strategic manner. An example of a relevant business goal¬†is¬†one that aligns¬†with the mission and vision of your organization.
  5. Timeline: Time-bound goals drive accountability. Having a timeline eliminates the looming possibility of procrastination. And considering accountability and execution are both strategic imperatives, a good example of a SMART goal is one that has a start date and a due date.

Real World Examples of SMART Goals

Real World Examples of SMART Goals

SMART goals are a type of strategic goal, which means they’re measurable objectives toward a long-term plan. Strategic goals are purpose-driven, actionable, long-term, forward-focused and measurable.¬†

If you’re unsure of what types of strategic goals to set or what they look like, here are some examples from a few common business sectors:

  • Finance:¬†You may set strategic finance goals like increasing revenues, gaining market position, attracting investment, exploring new customer segments or creating a new product.
  • Learning and development:¬†Your learning and development goals may include improving training programs, opening new locations, decreasing employee turnover, implementing performance reviews or aligning company culture.
  • Communication:¬†You could set strategic communication goals like implementing an open door policy, sending out internal newsletters, offering communication skills training or improving employee satisfaction.
  • Customer services:¬†Your strategic customer goals may include improving response time to complaints, improving customer satisfaction, increasing the number of returning customers or decreasing product returns.
  • Business processes:¬†You may set strategic business process goals like finding new volunteers, increasing web traffic, lowering production costs, improving supplier relationships, restructuring the organization or implementing new software.

KPI Measurement Examples

KPI Measurement Examples

Measurability is one of the most crucial aspects of any strategic goal or objective ‚ÄĒ for a goal to be strategic, there must be an accompanying measurement. The measurement will help determine how you choose to implement your strategy. It is often referred to as a key performance indicator (KPI). KPIs help you track your performance and progress toward a strategic goal. A baseline for setting KPIs is going from your current state (A) to the desired state (B) by your deadline date.

For example, your strategic goal may be to improve weekly production from A to B by a specific date. Adding the KPI makes the goal specific and measurable so you can track your progress and know when you accomplished the goal. Another KPI example is to enter A, B and C markets by this date. Setting a deadline is important so you know what you’re aiming for. Without specific numbers and deadlines, goals are easy to forget or drag on for too long.¬†

Here are a few more specific examples:

  • Increase revenue per transaction from $20 to $30 by June.
  • Reduce customer wait times from 15 minutes to 10 minutes within six months.
  • Acquire two new companies with at least $4 million in revenue by the end of the quarter.
  • Improve daily production from 100,000 to 150,000 by the end of the year.
  • Hire at least three new employees by September 12.

General Motors Strategic Planning Goals and Objectives Template

Let’s¬†look at SMART goals in action in the real world, in a story heavily covered by the media¬†at the time of its occurrence ‚ÄĒ¬†the ongoing turnaround at GM¬†and strategic plans laid out by CEO Mary Barra to correct their course.

As mentioned, it would be uncommon for a leader like Barra to mention¬†using¬†a SMART goal strategy¬†‚ÄĒ¬†at a certain point, the thinking becomes innate. But if you read about their plans, you can see the SMART goal structure in the framework.

I’ll note in advance¬†that¬†AchieveIt does not currently work with GM¬†‚ÄĒ¬†though we’d welcome an opportunity‚Ķ

In 2014, new GM CEO Barra was put to the test leading the car maker’s response across¬†several¬†major successive issues involving¬†the¬†quality and profitability¬†of products. At¬†an¬†event,¬†Barra outlined their strategy and plans to deliver against a myriad of issues.

Here is where the SMART thinking shines through¬†‚ÄĒ¬†starting with goals that, while on the surface sound a bit general, include¬†several¬†SPECIFIC objectives,¬†including:

  • Creating market-leading vehicles and delivering better profits.
  • Altering the behavior rooted in GM’s bureaucracy.
  • Dealing with the flaws across operations in North America regarding Cadillac distribution issues.¬†
  • Using the Cadillac brand to achieve growth goals in China.

With¬†ambitious and broad-ranging goals, the measurements applied to them can sound equally broad. Still, if¬†you delve into the numbers,¬†you will find greater detail regarding GM’s goal of being¬†“the world’s most valued automotive company,” a measure that includes customer satisfaction, quality and multiyear financial results.

Can they do it? Not for¬†us¬†to determine, but it is possible. But the goal of being “the world’s most valued automotive company” is certainly achievable. Though I suppose that might put them into the BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goals) space, if you are going to aim, you might as well aim high. As Barra herself noted, they can “no longer confuse steady progress with winning.”

It is also clear the entire GM leadership team knows the focus needs to be on their brand¬†‚ÄĒ¬†and in turn,¬†their goal¬†‚ÄĒ¬†relevance. If they are going to “earn customers for life and create significant shareholder value in the process,” they will need to deliver on their desire to introduce new lines of compact and midsize vehicles that get wows at the consumer level. And that saves a lot of money¬†‚ÄĒ¬†they hope to save close to $1¬†billion¬†a year with smarter purchasing¬†‚ÄĒ¬†which would win them a lot of fans on Wall Street.

And not to forget the other essential relevant audience¬†‚ÄĒ¬†their own people¬†‚ÄĒ¬†Barra noted they want GM to be “a company where employees go home enthused” every day.

Finally, there is the issue of goals being time-bound, and here again, it may be a bit audacious according to the press, but GM stated their goal was for their North American operations to achieve a 10% pre-tax profit margin by mid-decade.

Whether or not GM can deliver against their strategy is not up for debate here. For¬†a company that was recently referred to as the Google of an earlier era, we merely wish to use their commitment to their¬†turnaround¬†as an example of SMART goals in a real-world setting.¬†While they may have at one time been like Google, they are far more likely to be using SMART goals than Google’s own OKR goal-setting system, which we’ll address in coming posts.

We’re curious if you have other ideas for real-world SMART goal examples. Share them,¬†please,¬†if you do. And best wishes with your own goal-setting process. We’re¬†happy to help you deliver on them as you move ahead. Achieving results is,¬†after all,¬†our business.

BTW,¬†anyone have Mary Barra’s number?

[Photo Credit: Steve Fecht for General Motors]

About AchieveIt

About AchieveIt

AchieveIt is the platform large organizations use to get their biggest, most important initiatives out of the boardroom and into reality. Too many great ideas never quite make it across the finish line¬†because there’s no real way to keep everyone on course and keep everything on track. What does it take to¬†guide these initiatives¬†through to completion? You’ve got to:

  1. Get everything in view:¬†So you can see what’s happening with every initiative, at every level, from the enterprise to the individual, in real time.
  2. Get everyone engaged: With an easy-to-use platform that connects your organization from the executive leadership to the project teams, keeping everyone accountable and on the same page.
  3. Get every possible advantage: Because you have the premier platform in this space, and you can draw on the experience and best practices of our execution experts.

That’s why everyone from¬†global corporations¬†and¬†regional healthcare systems, to¬†federal agencies¬†have turned to AchieveIt for their Integrated Plan Management. Let’s actually do this.

Achieve Your Best With AchieveIt

A majority of strategic initiatives fail to meet their expected outcomes. Why? Because current strategy execution processes are broken. Collecting updates is manual and takes weeks. Information often crosses teams and systems, leading to missing context and no qualitative feedback. With reporting done in silos, it’s up to you to make decisions on limited information.

Once accurate information is finally available, it’s time to start over again. So, where does that leave you? Often with more questions than answers. That’s why AchieveIt was created ‚ÄĒ to make accomplishing plans and goals easy.¬†

Get in touch with our Execution Experts today to request a demo.


Meet the Author  Chelsea Damon

Chelsea Damon is the Content Strategist at AchieveIt. When she's not publishing content about strategy execution, you'll likely find her outside or baking bread.

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