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SMART Performance Goals

GOAL: (Describe specific, achievable, relevant result) as measured by (explain measurement method)
by (timeframe, with or without benchmarks).

All performance goals need to be SMART. SMART is an acronym for:


A specific performance goal provides a clear, concise description of a result you aim to achieve. Achieving
a result means that you have established, led, produced or improved something in particular. In other
words, your actions or behaviors have brought about an observable change. Specific goals do not detail
all of the activities you will undertake to achieve your results, but they do fully explain the result itself.
Make sure you have described your selected results very specifically. One way to ensure that a goal
statement is specific is to use verbs such as “improve”, “strengthen”, “develop”, “produce”, “create”,
“complete,” “implement,” or “achieve.” Avoid using verbs such as “support,” “participate in,” “assist,” “be
involved in,” or “coordinate with” because these verbs make it more difficult to explain your particular
role in achieving a result.

A performance goal must be measurable so that you and your supervisor can determine whether or not
you are making progress towards the goal and whether or not you have achieved it. This, in turn, makes
the performance tracking and assessment process more objective. In fact, ideally your measurement
method should produce evidence that even an independent observer could verify. Goals can be either
quantitatively or qualitatively measurable.

Quantitative goals include a specific numeric value such as a direct count, a financial figure, a percentage,
or a ratio. Oftentimes, a goal that is quantifiably measurable will reference a baseline figure. Quantitative
goals usually answer the question “how many?” or “how much?”

Qualitative goals describe the quality of a result – such as its accuracy, effectiveness, timeliness or
usefulness. This result is verified through observation or documentation (e.g., rating scale, checklist,
detailed criteria, or survey). Qualitative goals typically require some subjective judgment to evaluate
For both types of measures, make sure you write the goal so that it is possible to exceed it. The easiest
way to do this is to make sure you don’t use words such as “all,” “always,” or “never “in your goal.

Quantitative goals are usually more objective to measure than qualitative goals, but for some results it
can be difficult to come up with a quantitative measure that will take a reasonable amount of time to
collect and analyze. As Dick Grote says, “[S]ome performance measures may be quantifiable, but they are
more trouble than they are worth.” There are many factors about a person’s performance that a
supervisor can fairly assess based on what he/she observes. Since both quantitative and qualitative
measures can be meaningful, it is important to consider which measurement method is most appropriate
for your particular situation. Also consider which option would be the simplest for you to monitor and

A performance goal needs to be achievable within the Fiscal Year and reaching the goal should be primarily
within your control. In other words, your success should not heavily depend on external factors such as
the actions of colleagues or multiple levels of supervisor approval. Requirements and likely constraints
should be minimal. You also need to ensure that you either have the skills and resources necessary to
accomplish the result or that you will acquire these skills and resources during the Fiscal Year. In addition,
the result should be appropriate for your particular level of responsibility within the agency. The best
performance goals motivate you to stretch yourself to an even higher level of performance, without being
out-of-reach. When performance goals are too easy to achieve, they are meaningless.

Relevance means that your individual performance goals contribute to the strategic objectives or plans of
your department, country program, region and/or the agency. Consider how your goals link to broader
CRS strategies or plans. In previous CRS guidance on performance planning, the “R” in “SMART”
stood for “results-oriented.” However, in this updated guidance, the “R” means “relevant.”

You might look at the agency strategic initiatives and not see where you fit in or how you can make a
contribution. Note that these initiatives will cascade down to you through the priorities of your director,
country representative and/or manager, and/or through strategies and plans that have been developed
by your own department, country program or region.

Every performance goal must include a realistic deadline. For most goals this deadline will be the end of
the Fiscal Year. However, some goals might have an earlier deadline. The important thing is that the
deadline is realistic. You might also choose to include timeline benchmarks within your goal to help you
monitor progress, although this is optional.

Confirming your Goals

As HR expert Dick Grote says, while using the SMART “test” helps ensure that your goal is correctly stated,
it does not tell you whether or not a result is wise, appropriate and important enough to be set. The
following annex is a checklist that you can use to review your draft performance goals and make sure that
they are SMART. Make edits to your draft goals based on the results from the checklist, and then submit
the draft goals to your supervisor for review. Your supervisor may want to review the SMART checklist
with you again as you discuss and finalize your performance goals for the FY.

Reviewing your Goals

During the FY, if a goal is no longer fully attainable because of unmet requirements, more-challenging-
than-expected constraints, or any other situation outside of your control, you should speak with your
supervisor about modifying your goal. This discussion can happen during a coaching session in February
or June or at any suitable time.

If you have feedback on how this guidance could be more useful to you, e-mail learning@crs.org
SMART Goals: Checklist
This checklist helps you to confirm that your goals are written in a meaningful way. Remember that it is
also critical to reflect on whether the result you aim to achieve is an important and wise one.

Guiding Questions Yes If no, ask a peer or a supervisor for

suggestions on how to improve it
Does your goal clearly explain the result (observable
change) that you will aim to achieve?
Does your goal explain who is involved and the location
where the result will occur?
Does your goal mention any requirements or conditions
necessary for you to achieve the goal, or constraints that
will stand in your way?
Is your goal written in a way that it not too specific? In
other words, is the appropriate level of detail provided?
Will you and your supervisor be able to determine that you
are making progress towards your goal and whether or not
you have achieved it?
Could an independent observer verify whether or not you
have achieved your goal?
Does your goal include either a specific numeric value or
describe the quality of the result?
Is it realistic for you to gather the information you will
need to measure the result?
Have you made sure that it is possible to exceed your goal?
Is your goal realistic to achieve within the timeframe of
one Fiscal Year?
Is achievement of the goal primarily within your control?
Do you either have the skills and resources necessary to
achieve the goal or do you know that will you be
developing these skills or obtaining these resources during
the FY?
Is your goal appropriate for your level of responsibility
within CRS?
Is your goal sufficiently challenging, without being out-of-
Does your goal describe a level of performance that would
meet your supervisor’s expectations?
Does your goal contribute to the strategic objectives or
plans of your department, country program, region and/or
the agency? Can you easily explain this connection?
Does your goal include a realistic deadline with the FY?