by Kate Devyatkina, CEO of Ahundred
on December 1, 2019

S.M.A.R.T. (or 'SMART') goals is a popular system used to create goals by many companies and organizations in order to achieve success. This post will be about the similarities and differences. If you're thinking of moving from SMART goals to OKRs, after reading this post, you'll have a good idea of what to begin with.

So what is the difference between an objective and a goal?

Actually, it is the most frequently asked question by people who are about to get into the goal-setting world. The main difference between goals and objectives is that objectives are precise actions or measurable steps individuals or groups take to move closer to a goal. They are nothing but specific targets which typically have a timeline or a time-bound schedule for completion. This is how we identify the difference between a goal and an objective.

SMART VS OKR, what is the best?

What exactly are SMART goals?

This is the most widespread question among people who would like to start setting and managing their goals. A set of criteria for setting and creating goals, attributed to the framework Management By Objectives (MBO) are called SMART goals.

Unlike other frameworks which cover performance management, organizational hierarchy and strategy creation, a SMART goal is a simple structure that explains how to measure and create progress towards one goal or another. In this sense, the SMART objective criteria and an OKR can be compared as two alternate ways to structure a goal.

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound - these are five things that SMART goals should correspond to. If we look at each of the SMART criteria individually, we can see the details behind setting SMART goals. Setting SMART goals means you are able to use your time and resources productively, focus your efforts and clarify your ideas so in order to increase your chances of achieving what you want in life.

SMART goals definition and the way they work

A SMART goal must be specific by providing a clear description of what needs to be achieved. It has to be clear for everyone contributing to it.

S M A R T objectives
Example: "We close more enterprise clients in South America." This goal has a clear scope (South American enterprise clients) includes a description of what needs to be accomplished (closing more of them).
However, there is no information in this SMART objective about why it matters, when it needs to be achieved and how the success will be measured. This point presupposes that your goal is specific and clear, otherwise you will not be able to feel truly motivated or to focus your efforts to achieve it.
Measurable goals definition
Measurable means with specific criteria that measure your/your team's progress towards the completion of the goal. SMART objectives must be measurable to understand when a goal is achieved. It should include metrics with a target that indicates success. Examples of organizational goals: "We close 5 000 enterprise clients in South America." This is the goal that has a target which you can measure progress against. Once 5 000 enterprise clients in South America are closed, this S.M.A.R.T. goal setting will be considered successfully achieved.
This criterion of SMART goal setting means that your goal should be possible to achieve, given the available constraints and resources under your control. This doesn't mean that it should be easy. Taking our previous SMART objectives example, since closing 5000 clients seems like an unrealistic target, the sales team considers amending it. For example: "We close 600 enterprise customers in South America." This smarter goals setting may be difficult to achieve, but quite possible. However, it's still not clear why, actually, achieving this goal matters.
A SMART goal setting is considered relevant when it leads to and is consistent with an outcome that contributes toward other company (organizational) goals. A SMART employee goals examples or rather company example: "We close 600 enterprise customers in South America to expand our market share." Now this goal is tightly connected to the company's global goal to "expand the market share". The only thing it's still missing is a deadline for these goals and objectives.
A timebound goal (in terms of smart goals setting) has a start date and an end date. An end date is really important, because this is about the terms when the goal will be reviewed, so that to see whether it is successful considered or not. This is not an example of personal smart goals, but an organizational one from the previous point: In 2019, we close 600 enterprise customers in South America so that we extend our worldwide footprint. The goal now has a duration and a scope, and finally meets all the criteria of a SMART goal.
SMART VS OKR, what is the best?
Similarities of OKRs and SMART goals

We have already found out what the difference is between a goal and an objective. Now let's talk about what they have in common.

The first thing that unites OKRs and SMART goals is their history.
Both these goals vs objectives setting frameworks date back to Peter Drucker's MBO (theory of Management by Objectives). OKRs and SMART goals are a perfect development of MBO and they support the belief that goals are key to achieving overall organizational success.
OKRs and SMARTs set both contain a number of criteria that describe their structure.
An OKR may look simpler to you than a SMART goal, but OKRs cover the same criteria that SMARTs do. Defining and setting SMART goals in a proper way can lead your company to success, making it more transparent and open, and making employees more involved in the process of goals achievement, explaining and showing what SMART goals are, and why your organization needs them.
SMART and OKR are also quite similar in their informality.
How can you write SMART goals or OKR or actually use them within an organization? Easily! Neither of them require any commercial certification or governing body like SCRUM or Six Sigma. OKR and SMART goals define themselves as an open source. Both of the frameworks were refined and created over time by many different companies testing what really works. SMART goals definition is in contrast to other goals management frameworks that have their roots in professional organizations, government, and academia.

Some examples
Now, when we know exactly how to write smart goal so that it contains all the SMART criteria and can be made in a way it will be most efficient for your company, I am happy to share some examples of smart goals being used at work :

  • Be prepared for a new product launch by developing launch checklists of tasks, due-dates, activities and driving approval by all stakeholders by October the 1st.
  • Ensure that 95% of the team members have completed training on the newest inventory management software by the beginning of the third quarter.

What is a S.M.A.R.T. Goal for development examples?

Improve my new product understanding by drafting, creating and delivering 3 projects using our product till the end of the quarter.

Smart personal goals example

To lose 4lb by the end of September by cutting down on junk food and training two times a week in order to cure my lower back pain and constant fatigueue.


Now you know what the similarities and differences between SMART goals and OKR are, as well as the difference between goals and objectives. To sum up all of the above, I can say that all the modern companies use these frameworks to allow their businesses to constantly move forward by focusing on their main goals.

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