Binning the SMART objectives

It’s a radical approach, but would your whole performance review experience be improved if you binned the SMART objectives?

Having delivered training in how to set and write up SMART objectives for many years now, I don’t suggest this lightly. But I do suggest it as SMART objectives seem to be universally hated, so perhaps it is time to question their use in appraisals.

If you think I have finally lost it (!), I would ask you to question why on earth anyone would want to bang their head against a brick wall year after year just because someone, somewhere, at some point said that to be a professional organisation your review process has to include SMART objectives?

Chief problems with SMART objectives are:

  • Objectives written one day can be blown out of the water just weeks later resulting in neither party knowing where they are when next year’s review takes place
  • Managers tend to set objectives that are easy to measure and ignore much of the stuff that would really make a difference to everyone – just because its hard to know how to measure improvements in them e.g. communication or team working skills
  • Some managers hate the laborious process of thinking them through and writing them up, so tend to just slap any old objectives down on a piece of paper which defeats the whole point
  • Lazy managers include the same objectives for virtually everyone in their team meaning that there is no real reason why they need to be set out in individual reviews at all
  • Many staff just don’t ‘get’ how they add value or what their relevance is, particularly if they already have a good understanding of what is expected day on day
  • What is written down is often not what the manager really expects, as many managers find it hard to translate thoughts into clear and succinct written words. This scuppers the whole process.

So what would happen if you binned SMART objectives from the performance review process?

I’m not suggesting you bin your KPI’s, or bin setting any objectives for staff outside of reviews, or bin team meetings when you let staff know what you need. I am simply suggesting that to bring greater value (for both manager and employee) to the individual performance review process, would there be any mileage in you binning the SMART objective part of the process?

This year we have done just that at Jaluch. I thought it was worth the experiment and so far feedback is that reviews have gone well and that those objective setting, box filling parts of the review that tend to overwhelm all sensible discussion about all other things (such as wellbeing, performance, team fit, personal development etc) have not been missed at all!

If you are thinking of revisiting your review process and would like some support please do contact the Jaluch team.

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