We were recently asked to list the ten top tips for creating a  project brief: everyone agreed the first was setting a clear objective, then as we kicked around other key points such as building in measures of success and taking account of available resource, it dawned that most of the points could be addressed in that first point – ’setting a clear objective’. If you dusted off that old, tried and trusted technique, SMART objective setting.

Okay, it’s been around for years and most of you are probably familiar with it, but it is still a valuable tool for setting objectives for colleagues, staff, suppliers… and yourself. For those of you not familiar with it, or those of us who have not used it in a while, it is a very useful mnemonic:

S – Specific: clear, precise, not fuzzy.
M – Measurable: You need measures in there to measure the success or otherwise of the project. Success criteria and failure criteria.
A – Achievable: All goals and objectives should be challenging, but if they are not achievable, those involved in the project will either become disheartened or you will start moving the goalposts.
R – Realistic: People often used to ask what is the difference between ‘realistic’ and ‘achievable’ – well, we bring in the other ‘R’ – Resource. Is there sufficient resource (time, personnel, cash etc.) to realistically achieve the objective within all the other parameters.
T – Time based: We all knoiw we need a timescale otherwise things don’t happen.

These five factors can form the structure around which to hang a more detailed project brief, but they are critical. They are tools of the brief-writer, but should involve consultation. Two of the factors may be variable – M, the measures and T, the timescale. You may need to manipulate these for A, achievable and R, realistic to work. This is where consultation matters. Discuss these with the people you may need to call on to execute the project. It is far better to get these right at the brief stage than have to go back and change the objectives as the project is in progress.

So, get SMART… let us know what you think.