SMART project management is the implementation of the tenets of SMART goal setting in the practice of project management. Since project managers handle every aspect of the task from beginning to end, setting their objectives according to the principles laid down by SMART is crucial for the success of the project.

For people who are not familiar with the SMART principle, it is an acronym or mnemonic device that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. These terms apply primarily to determining which goals are the most suited to complete a given project. Setting the proper goals will hasten project completion and improve its chances of success.


Project managers are the ones responsible for determining and setting the goals which are appropriate for the project. And one of their priorities is deciding which goals are actually helpful. One of the criteria for determining this is by asking oneself if the goal is specific. Being specific means that an objective must be able to answer all four W questions, which are:

  • What needs to be done?
  • Why should we do it?
  • Who are involved in accomplishing the goal?
  • Where can we get the necessary resources?

Any number of variations of these four questions is equally applicable. Also, being specific means that one must identify the requirements for achieving a goal and the problems that will most probably be encountered.


Project managers and team leaders must also establish objectives where success or failure can be concretely measured. Having a benchmark or standard for success provides something with which to measure the workers’ progress against. This would lead them to be more urgent and efficient in their work in order to achieve the set criteria for accomplishing their objective. Measurable goals will answer questions like “How much?” or “How many?”


All project managers should give attainable goals to their workers. Having them work on extremely difficult jobs will decrease their productivity and will have an effect on their morale. It’s no use telling six bakers that they must make three hundred croissants and four differently-designed cakes in three hours. They might just rebel and worse, they might consider your next objective unrealistic as well. It’s also important to note that extremely easy goals are unhealthy as well. It takes away the pride of hard work and achieving difficult objectives successfully.


A goal’s relevance cannot be stretched enough. A goal may be specific, or it may be measurable or attainable and time-bound. But if it doesn’t have any relevance to the project, it is practically useless. Setting irrelevant goals also says something about a project manager’s state of mind. Try saying to your IT team that they must finish washing and wiping four hundred dinner plates in two hours and see where that takes you.


Having deadlines for accomplishing a certain goal gives workers a sense of urgency. This comes from the fact that they have a timeframe within which they have to finish a task or objective or they will be considered as underperforming. This also serves as a way to measure the efficiency of a team of workers in achieving a particular objective.

See also:

6 Keys to SMART Project Management

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