The trick to setting goals the right way – The Washington Post.

An effective vision is what we’d call an idealized image–a portrait of the best possible future that can be visualized. This is the kind of speech tactic that someone like Martin Luther King was so good at–speaking about the best possible future but doing it in a way that resembled a story. The key is that the best visions are mini-stories or mini-movies. Rather than talk about maximizing customer satisfaction, you should talk about seeing customers smiling as they leave our stores.

At my job, we talk about S.M.A.R.T. goals: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Results-focused, Time-bound. You don’t just say, I want to get better at my job. Instead, you say, “My goal is to increase widget production by 25% from ~10,000 units per day to >12,500 units per day by the end of Q3, September 30.”

S.M.A.R.T. goals work really well in the metrics-driven worlds of operations and manufacturing, as well as in product management, but they are challenging for support and design teams who can’t predict what is coming down the pike at them. My team (a technical program management office) struggles with S.M.A.R.T. goals: we aren’t a metrics-driven PgMO (for a variety of reasons), and we don’t know what projects we’ll be asked to support until they appear on our plates. Therefore, we typically make up our S.M.A.R.T. goals as we go along, which defeats the whole purpose.

So I like the idea described in the article of telling a story to address the perception of one’s customers and community when crafting goals and team tenets. How do we want our customers to perceive us and our service? The answer to that question is a mission statement and/or set of tenets that isn’t just Dilbert-speak. Then, what specific things can we do to reinforce those perceptions? The answer to that question is a set of S.M.A.R.T.-ish goals.