Fast Goals v Smart Goals

October 30, 2022 Neale Lewis

FAST  Goals

FAST goals are Frequently discussed, Ambitious, Specific, and Transparent. As such, FAST goals place more of an emphasis on shooting high and evaluating performance continuously. While some of this overlaps with SMART, we’ll break down the differences below and explain how they work in tandem to motivate your team. 

  • Frequently discussed: Setting a specific cadence for reviewing progress, prioritizing associated work, and allocating necessary resources is critical for staying on track to meet your goals. At Align, we give daily updates on quarterly goals and discuss them with functional teams on a bi-weekly basis. Specific discussion rhythm depends on your time frame, but you should allow for the greatest focus on what matters most and timely course corrections if goals go off track.
  • Ambitious: In addition to being “achievable”, your goals should provide enough difficulty to boost performance and minimize the risk of teams relaxing if the goal appears easily obtainable. Setting goals that require extra effort incentivizes innovation and creative thinking as priority owners figure out how to elevate performance.
  • Specific: Though this attribute repeats the first component of a SMART goal, it creates greater emphasis on flexibility when combined with FAST. When the written goal is sufficiently specific, it is easier to identify where progress is falling short and quickly adjust course.
  • Transparent: This is the final component of writing a goal that will push success, and it may indeed be the most important. Bringing transparency into goal creation and goal tracking creates motivation through accountability. Priority owners can understand how their work supports broader company goals and also understand how their efforts support other team members. It also allows for easier identification of duplicate efforts or efforts that don’t contribute to your broader strategy. Transparently tracking goals also allows for greater collaboration when identifying issues and correcting course.

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SMART Goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Let’s break down what that means.

  • Specific: Well-written goals should answer the main questions of “Who?”, “What?”, and “How?”. This means the goal explains who is responsible, what needs to be achieved, and how it will be accomplished.
  • Measurable: A good goal should include some measure of success to enable you to track your progress and know when you’ve actually achieved it. Defining a quantifiable measure of success provides clarity to your goal and makes it easier to reach. We’ll discuss how to choose a target for your goal in the next section. 
  • Achievable: Setting a goal that other responsibilities prevent you from accomplishing sets you up for failure. Be realistic but aggressive when determining what can be accomplished with the time, energy, and focus you have available for this goal. 

  • Relevant: Any goal should help you achieve your targets and the bigger vision you have for the organization and yourself. A goal that isn’t important to overcoming the hurdles between today and your desired future won’t keep you motivated or move your company forward. 
  • Time-Bound: All well-written goals have a deadline for achieving them. Whether you’re planning on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, tracking goals against a due date provides a sense of urgency. Doing so allows you to understand whether they are sufficiently aggressive.
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GOAL Setting 

  • The most difficult part of writing a great goal is balancing achievability and ambitiousness. Companies at different stages may select different levels of ambition for their goals. Google, for instance, expects employees to achieve between 60-70% of their goals. This leads to greater creativity and experimentation when attempting to achieve goals 

    Depending on the availability of past data, setting expectations that are orders of magnitude higher than current performance should depend on tolerance for failure. One solid solution to this issue is defining the success criteria while also including a stretch goal. We categorise these by a colour system, but there are many ways to do so. Our priority colour system includes: 

    • Red: This represents an unacceptable failure. This is the minimum level that you would accept before there would be consequences. If your goal is to 2X some metric, Red could be 1.25X. This would constitute quarterly performance that puts achieving annual targets out of reach.
    • Yellow: This represents performance between your unacceptable range and meeting your goal.
    • Green: This is the color of accomplishing your goal.
    • Dark Green (Super Green): This represents your stretch goal, what it would mean to go above-and-beyond what was expected. This should come with added celebration if accomplished. 

    You should create your measurable result for a green target based on the level of success needed this quarter to hit your annual target. In turn, you should base your annual targets on the performance that companies in similar industries followed on your desired growth trajectory.

The Scaling Up Scoreboard software provides an excellent solution to align your team around the Key priorities for the business and to set down goals for your team to successfully execute on the Strategy.

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