2. Make it Measurable.It must be clear how performance will be measured. What are the “success criteria” that will tell both parties when the desired outcomes have been achieved. Again, it must be spelled out in black and white. If not, expect breakdowns to occur. Always ask “how will you know, beyond any doubt, that this has been done to your satisfaction? What are your standards to measure this work?” If you don’t get this agreed between the two parties, expect trouble at the end of the road. Very often a person making a request is unclear about their own standards…until they see the other person’s work and it doesn’t meet them. Skillful leaders must learn to get clear about their standards so they can communicate them to others. If they don’t…who is being lazy?
3. Make it Actionable.The request must something that can be acted on. For example, it must be within our power, and we must have the necessary approvals, and the necessary budget and available manpower. Without such things, the request is not considered as “actionable.” If you feel, for any reason, that a request is no actionable…say so! If you suffer in silence and don’t push back, what do you think is going to happen? Speak up!
4. Be Realistic.The request must allow sufficient time and there must be sufficient resources available. Asking someone to “re-build the Pyramids in 48 hours” is an example of a request that is not realistic. When a request seems to be un-realistic it is time to push back, say what is missing, and negotiate something you truly feel is realistic. If you need more time, ask for it. If someone says they need more time, give it to them. If the relevant resources are missing, provide them. How do you expect people to perform if they don’t have what they need?
5. Make it Time-based.Both parties must agree on exactly how much time is going to be allowed to fulfill the request. If the time frame for completion is unclear, speak up! Push Back! Don’t say “yes” until you have a clear and acceptable time-frame to work with. Then agree on a specific time for delivery of the completed work. If there is not date and time of day on the calendar, it is not Time-based.
6. Check for Understanding.When negotiating a request, always check for understanding once you have clarified each element of the SMART standard. Do this by saying:
“Would you please repeat back to me what you have understood in this discussion? What is that you think we have agreed to? I just want to be very sure, for both our sakes, that we have got it right.”
As they speak, take notes and compare with your understanding. When they are finished, go back and clarify any points that did not match your understanding.
After the conversation, send them a written memo or email that captures your agreement in black and white. Ask them to check it and confirm back to you. Once they agree that it is correct it is time to move into action…and not before. If you are the one accepting a request, write a quick email that summarizes each point of the SMART agreement you have just made. Ask the receiver to confirm that your understanding is correct.
What are the Benefits of Being SMART?
• Both parties greatly increase their confidence that the task is going to be effectively performed and delivered as expected. Everyone has much greater confidence in the outcomes.
• Trust is increased between the two persons because breakdowns are avoided and they will be more willing to work as partners next time.
• Using the SMART standard is a very simple and effective way to train and coach people. You are showing them what you expect them to do when it is their turn to make requests of others.
• Being SMART saves time and money by ensuring the task will be done right the first time.