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Effective Goal Setting


Performance management helps to align individual activities with the organization’s strategic priorities, enhance two-way communication, and improve individual and organizational performance -- and it all starts with goals.

What are annual performance goals?
Annual performance goals should be a written statement of what the supervisor and employee expect will be accomplished -- the results of the employee’s activities -- within a given time period. Both short and long term goals can be written for: specific one-time or on-going projects; new programs; process improvements; work on committees, or a variety of other assignments.

Do performance goals need to be linked to the University’s objectives or mission?
Goals should be aligned and linked with the overall objectives and mission of the University when possible. Higher level strategic priorities that have been communicated through all levels of the organization can be used to inform the individual’s goals. Even when strategic plans have not been communicated, the needs of those you serve are good starting points for setting meaningful goals.

How do I write effective goals?
Describing desired results and identifying success measures will help you write effective goals. To make this process more manageable, use the SMART acronym to develop goal statements. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time framed. SMART goals (see below) contain all these elements. Remember, goals are the results you wish to achieve, not what you do.

SMART Goals

SPECIFIC • Easy to understand
• Specifies desired future results
• Identifies actions to be taken or results to be achieved that will contribute to the achievement of a larger objective within a specified period of time
• Uses concrete action verbs

MEASURABLE • Describes how each goal will be measured (numeric or descriptive)
• Answers the questions:
- How will I know when the result has been achieved?
-How will I verify the achievement/performance of this goal?
-To what level do we need to achieve this result?
• Identifies the qualitative factors involved and sets measures for them
ACHIEVABLE • The individual has the capabilities (skills, knowledge), tools, or resources to accomplish this goal
• It is appropriate in scope
• The goal is realistic even with all the other commitments within the unit
• The goal is within the individual’s/unit’s/team’s control and influence

RELEVANT • The goal is in alignment with the mission of your department, unit, or work group
• The goal relates to broader objectives that your department wishes to achieve
TIME FRAMED • There is a specific time frame to achieve this goal (beginning and end date)
• May include interim steps and a plan to monitor progress
• May establish a time frame for short and long-term goals