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The Difference Between Goals & Objectives ~ Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

By: Bucky Cline on July 19th, 2012

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The Difference Between Goals & Objectives ~ Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals


People often confuse Goals & Objectives.  But both are needed in business and personal endeavors in order to grow and be successful.  Here are some tips to the difference between Goals & Objectives, the best ways to use them and setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals.

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Setting Goals & Objectives

  • Failing to plan is planning to fail.
  • Setting goals and objectives is the first and most critical step in the planning process.

The terms “goals” and “objectives” are often used interchangeably but they are different...

Goals are general, intangible, broad abstract and strategic (long range directions often set by top managment).

Objectives are specific, measurable, narrow, concrete and tactical (short-range, usually set by managers to accomplish goals that have been set).

  • Each manager should use the goals set forth in your company's strategic plan to set objectives for themselves and their departments.
  • Each person should be evaluated on how they accomplish their objectives.

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S.M.A.R.T. Objectives

  • S - Specific
  • M - Measurable
  • A - Achievable
  • R -Realistic
  • T -Time-oriented


  • Concrete
  • Detailed
  • Focused
  • Well-defined
  • Straight-forward
  • Action-oriented

When setting objectives that are specific you should ask:

  • What am I going to do? Action verbs such as develop, execute, conduct and build should be used.
  • Why is it important to do this?
  • Who is going to be involved?
  • When do I want this to be completed?
  • How am I going to do this?

*p – Measurement for objectives is the key to knowing when you have accomplished the objective.
*p – You will have tangible evidence when completed.

*p – Achievable objectives are those that you can actually accomplish and are not an aspiration or vision. You must be able to accomplish within the set timeframe.
*p – Achievable objectives need to challenge you but not so much so as to be unattainable or to cause frustration in being unable to complete.

*p – Realistic objectives are those that you have the resources to accomplish. These include:
- Skills
- Funding
- Equipment
- Staff
When setting objectives that are realistic ask:
- Do I have the resources to accomplish?
- Do I need to rearrange my priorities to accomplish?
- Is it possible to complete this objective?

*p – These have deadlines for completion that should create urgency and lead to action.
*p – Deadlines, just as with the overall objective, must be achievable and realistic.
*p – For a complex objective break it into small parts with a completion date for each.
When setting time-oriented objectives ask:
- What is the earliest yet achievable and realistic date for this objective to be completed?
- Have I included this date in the statement of the objective?

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