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Objectives concretely measure a program's successes or shortcomings, and to show how a program is translating an organization's mission, vision, and values into action. However, organizations often struggle in creating objectives that accurately measure progress toward a goal, or that are meaningful to other team members or to external partners.
Many programs are run on grant funding tied to achieving objectives, and it is important that a program can prove its success to continue funding. It is also important to know whether a program has failed, and by how much, in order to change the program to be more effective in the future.
To ensure you're effectively measuring a program's impact, draft objectives that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
|How to Write SMART Objectives|
Learn more about the components of SMART objectives below by asking the questions provided. Use the bolded questions to directly assemble components of your SMART objectives. (Hint: To learn about the difference between process, impact, and outcome objectives, visit Objectives.)
Objectives should be well-defined, and clear to other team members and to partners with the same level of knowledge as you. Using action-oriented verbs, such as "increase" or "decrease," will make your objectives easier to measure in the end.
- Who is involved with executing this program?
- Who is your target population?
- What exactly will you do for them?
- What are the benefits of this goal?
- Where will this program be executed?
Objectives should have a benchmark and a target, to help determine whether the objective is achieved, if it has been exceeded (and by how much), or if it hasn't been met (and by how much).
- How much change is expected? In what direction?
- What data will prove this change has occurred? Where will this data come from?
- Is there a proxy measure to use If this objective cannot be directly measured, or is there another measure that would be more appropriate to use instead?
Objectives should be within reach for your team or program, considering available resources, knowledge, and time.
- How can this objective be accomplished?
- Given the current time frame or socio/political environment, can this objective be achieved? Should we scale it up or down?
- What resources will help us achieve this objective? What limitations or constraints stand in our way? (Hint: You can use a SWOT analysis to map out internal and external factors that might positively or negatively impact your objectives.)
Objectives need to be in line with your program's mission, vision, and goals, as well as agreed-upon by important stakeholders and partners. Objectives related to your organization's mission and guiding principles are more likely to be endorsed by organizational leadership; objectives endorsed by community partners and stakeholders will lead to a greater level of buy-in from community members and other participants.
- Will this objective lead to achieving this organization's goals?
- Does it seem worthwhile to measure this objective? Does it seem reasonable to measure this objective?
Objectives should be attainable within a specific time frame that isn't so soon as to prevent success, or so far away as to encourage procrastination.
- When will this objective be achieved?
- Is this time frame realistic? Should it be closer, or further in the future?
|Examples: SMART Objectives|
|Community members will be trained on the curriculum.||→||By the third year of the grant period, program staff will have trained 80% of school nurses on the selected train-the-trainer curriculum.|
|Event participants will understand smoking cessation.||→||By the end of the event, 90% of participants will be able to identify at least three techniques that can lead to successful smoking cessation.|
|Smoking rates will be reduced.||→||By 2020, the rate of smoking in the seven-county metro area will decrease by 25%.|
- MDH: Developing a SMART Aim Statement (PDF: 125KB / 1 page)
- CDC: Writing SMART Objectives (PDF: 214KB / 2 pages)
- The Practice of Leadership: Setting SMART Objectives
- March of Dimes, Hawaii Chapter: "SMART" Objectives
(PDF: 53KB / 3 pages)
- Nebraska Dept. of Health and Human Services: SMART Objective Editor
Please note: These links are not affiliated with or directly endorsed by MDH.