The S.M.A.R.T. way to develop great objectives for you and your team

A methodology to help crystalize objectives, and why it matters

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Defining, aligning, and writing objectives can be daunting. Often, company objectives (sometimes referred to as goals, but in a business context, we call them objectives) are general — e.g. “gain more customers”. While they inform team objectives and desired results, people often struggle with exactly what information to include.

Clear objectives are specific; they include a set timeframe, they’re measurable, and they have a direct impact on your organization.

A lot of organizations use the S.M.A.R.T. criteria and goal setting method to define and measure objectives. Many of us here at Range use it, and we thought it would be helpful to share the method and provide clear examples to help you overcome vagueness in your company communication.

What are objectives?

“An objective is what we want to do” is how a former colleague simply put it. And that definition often matches company-level objectives. But supporting objectives need to be more defined.

So it’s often helpful to think of them as two categories of objectives.

  • Company-level objectives set the overarching direction for your business plan and define where you want to be in the future.
  • Team objectives are the specific actions and measurable steps your company must take to reach a desired outcome. They give you a clear understanding of the specific tasks or projects that need to be completed in order to get closer to the company objective.

For example, you might use company objectives in your yearly and quarterly company strategy, your positioning, mission statement, company culture guide, financial projections, and other crucial business documents and initiatives. The right goals will align with your company vision, purpose, and long-term aspirations. A few examples:

  • Increase international customer base
  • Foster a more inclusive company culture
  • Improve cross-team communication
  • Build trust between cross-functional departments

While these are worthy objectives, there are no specific timeframes or actions that guide you on how to reach your destination. What defines an “inclusive company culture?” What are the particular tasks you need to complete? How would you know you’ve reached the goal?

A company-level objective describes where your company wants to be in the future, but unlike team objectives, it doesn’t explain how you plan to get there.
Goals vs objectives differences

To make them actionable, team objectives need to be broken down into objectives and key results. Here’s how you can break down an example company-level objective into measurable objectives:

Difference between goals and objectives diagram

Company objective: Increase international customer base

  • Regional objective: Acquire 28% more customers from the UK, Australia, and Germany, in the next three months
  • Outbound sales team objective: Reach out to 20 additional international prospects per week
  • Product department objective: Translate the onboarding flow and reduce the time for onboarding from 12 days to five days for all international customers in the next three months
  • Marketing department objective: Reduce cost-per-click from $2.50 to $0.50 for international digital ad campaigns and increase the reach from 100 to 500 people per week

The S.M.A.R.T. approach

Objective has the word “object” in it. Objects are concrete. Because of this, objectives can be scoped with timeframes, budgets, and tangible results. The S.M.A.R.T. approach to developing objectives is a useful framework to help you make sure you’ve defined them in the right way.

The acronym stands for:

  • Specific — Objectives have a high level of concreteness with real metrics and deadlines that need to be tracked. For example, “Generate 50 leads from the UK before 30 Oct” is more specific than “increase the international customer base.”
  • Measurable — Make sure that you can track your objective. What’s the key result that you’re going to track?
  • Attainable — Objectives are challenging but possible. “Helping 10 million international businesses be more productive” is an admirable goal but not very actionable if you have 100 customers. Don't try to conquer the world overnight.
  • Relevant — Is the objective related to your long-term goal, and does it align with your company vision?
  • Time-bound — Your objective needs to have a concrete deadline. “Someday” is not a day of the week.

How to align your objectives in practice

We (surprise!) use Range here at Range to define, align, track, and report on our objectives.

We set them by quarter, review them in weekly meetings, and log work with quick daily check-ins, so everyone has insight into how projects are progressing. It works with tools like Slack, Asana, Trello, GitHub, and more, so it’s easy to connect our tasks, documents, and code changes with our objectives.

Combined with the S.M.A.R.T. approach, this level of transparency and collaboration helps the teams crystalize not just what matters, but how to get there.

Start your free trial and begin crafting meaningful objectives at every level.

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