An Introduction to Setting SMART Goals for Project Managers


Setting up a goal is the first step towards implementing an idea. Whether that goal is related to personal ambitions or professional projects, it always starts with an idea. It is important to set goals that not only meet the aforementioned criterion but also bear optimum long-lasting results.

Project management is all about setting goals and completing milestones on a given timeline. Setting up goals it optimizes each stage of development – whether it is project planning, tracking and monitoring, implementation, etc. Whether you are setting up short-term, or long-term goals, there is a set of rules to follow. In managerial lingo, they are called: SMART goals.

In this article, you will learn how to set SMART goals for project managers and how they help to overcome professional obstacles.

SMART goals for Project Managers:

What are SMART Goals for Project Managers?

In project management, SMART is an acronym where the letters depict Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound, respectively.

Some of the alternate words used for Relevant can be Realistic and/or Results-oriented.

This term was used first by George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review. The primary advantage of SMART objectives lies in the belief that these are easier to understand, which makes it easier to know when the objectives have been achieved.

Also read: Top Productivity Podcasts for Project Managers to Follow in 2018

Let Us Dig Deeper…

Let’s have a look at what each letter actually refers to in order to better understand SMART goals for project managers.


The first element to consider while setting SMART goals for project managers is for the goal to be specific. Specific means that the goal set should be clearly defined. There should be no ambiguity about it on any level in the project management hierarchy.

As per research, according to a research by PMI, executive leaders term the lack of clear goals as the most common factor causing project failure: 37% to be specific (no pun intended).

Melanie Perkins is the co-founder and CEO of Canva. Perkins is of the idea that it is important to set a clear direction for the company and frequently discuss the future. If everyone knows where you are trying to get to, there is less debate about the small things that do not matter.


Measurable goals help you identify how you to measure success and stay on track. With a numeric measurement of project progress, you can identify the actual state of the project on the progress chart, see how much more work remains and the time it will take.

Being able to measure the work accomplished in a specific interval can boost the team’s confidence and increase motivation.

According to Julie Demsey, GM of SBE Australia, the best way to stay on target is to systematically revisit goals and to track progress regularly as it keeps the team focused on priorities.


Another important aspect of SMART goals for project managers is achievability. Achievable goals are self-explanatory. It’s great to aim for the stars yet it is important to keep track of the actual chunk of workload you and your team can take up.

A good way to go about this is to involve the team members in setting up project goals. Team members can be allowed to choose areas of the project to work on depending upon their actual skillset and capabilities.

This will help anticipate how much progress can actually be made with the project and in which areas.

Beau Leese is the co-founder and co-CEO of Intersective. According to Leese, the management team focuses our goal setting on a rolling 12-month operational plan, budget, and more detailed metrics, so we know what we need to focus on. Our team then breaks this down to what is achievable.


SMART goals for project managers should be relevant to the company mission and reflect one or more core values. In order to make sure the project delivers the required results, it is important to track that each goal stays consistent with the objectives of the company on the whole.

This will help keep the scope of the project clear and the perspective insight for all the teams and managers involved.

Kelly Quirk is the CEO of Harrier Human Capital. According to Quirk, meaningful goals need to be closely aligned with the business’s objectives. If the business attempts to grow or diversify into new markets or geographies, the goals need to be directly linked to and focused on how to achieve that.

Quirk also states that she finds it helpful to separate goals into short-term (six to 18 months) and long-term (18 months to three years).

Also read: How to Write Company OKRs for Effective Goal-Setting?


The last thing to consider in establishing SMART goals for project managers is for the goal to be timebound. Timebound goals involve a realistic time frame to be achieved. In order to avoid a never-ending marathon in a project, each stage must have a definite deadline.

By keeping tasks and goals time-bound, the team will feel a sense of urgency to work and deliver results in the desired time period. A good way to go about it is to have an efficient resource management system in place. This will keep deadlines from being missed and help the teams stay on track.

Mick Spencer, founder, and CEO of ONTHEGO. Spencer states that when his team has a quarterly, the entire company and team is involved in the review so they can address how they are tracking. Whether the goals are met, not met and the reasons behind it.

Also read: 5 Effective Team Management Techniques for Project Managers

SMART Goals for Project Managers & Entrepreneurs:

Alyssa Gregory is the founder of Small Business Bonfire. It is a social and educational community for entrepreneurs and an author of more than 2,500 business-related articles. In an article giving examples of setting SMART goals for project managers, Gregory gives a great example of how to implement SMART:

Broad Goal: I wish to expand my business.

Specific: I will attain three new clients for my consulting business.

Measurable: I will measure progress through the number of new clients I bring on while maintaining my current client base.

Attainable: I will ask current clients for referrals, launch a social media marketing campaign and network with local businesses.

Relevant: By adding additional clients to my business, I will be able to grow my business and increase my revenue.

Timebound: I will have three new clients within two months.


I will acquire three new clients for my consulting business within two months. I will attain this by asking for referrals, launching a social media marketing campaign, and by networking with local businesses. This will allow me to expand my business and increase my revenue. If you analyze this statement carefully, this SMART goal is very realistic and achievable.

How do you implement SMART goals in project management? Let us know through the comments section below.

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