SMART is a mnemonic acronym, giving criteria to guide in the setting of objectives, for example in project management, employee performance management and personal development. The letters S and M usually mean specific and measurable. The other letters have meant different things to different authors, as described below.

SMART criteria are commonly attributed to Peter Drucker’s management by objectives concept. The first known use of the term occurs in the November 1981 issue ofManagement Review by George T. Doran.[2] The principal advantage of SMART objectives is that they are easier to understand, do, and be confident that they have been done.

SMARTER gives two additional criteria. For example, evaluated and reviewed are intended to ensure that targets are not forgotten.

SMARTTA is a variant of SMARTER with the last two letters TA in the place of ERT is Trackable with clear measures of success and A is Agreed to ensure understanding and commitment.

he November 1981 issue of Management Review contained a paper by George T. Doran called There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives.[2][3] It discussed the importance of objectives and the difficulty in setting them.

Ideally speaking, each corporate, department, and section objective should be:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Notice that these criteria don’t say that all objectives must be quantified on all levels of management. In certain situations it is not realistic to attempt quantification, particularly in staff middle-management positions. Practicing managers and corporations can lose the benefit of a more abstract objective in order to gain quantification. It is the combination of the objective and its action plan that is really important. Therefore, serious management should focus on these twins and not just the objective.

—George T. Doran, There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives