In my previous post, I mentioned that Goals in GQM should be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound). A reader questioned how applicable SMART is to every scenario, and I thought it would be worth it to reply here. I use SMART when I am working with measurements - in other words, I believe that when dealing with measurements, SMART goals should be applied.

Can I apply SMART, for example, to solving world hunger. I don't know - let's see...

Let's start with a goal "Solve world hunger". That goal fits none of the SMART criteria, so I better try again.

Specific - for this goal, what I want to focus on is number of deaths and disease attributed to malnutrition. This doesn't cover everything to do with world hunger, but it's important that goals are specific.

Measurable - How do I tell if my efforts have worked. I do not know what the current data is on malnutrition and hunger issues, nor do I know what has been done already, but for the sake of exercise, I'll say that my goal is to reduce deaths and disease each by 10%.

Attainable - again, I'm not well versed enough in the area to know if my goal is attainable, but let's assume it is

Relevant - I'll assume that less sick and dying people is a good thing and is relevant to the above points

Time bound - Oh yeah - didn't mention this in the measurement above, but let's do this by the end of the 2009 calendar year. I can also attach time bound to the measurement by saying that the 10% improvement will be based against 2008 data.

Put it all together, and my new goal is:

"Reduce the number of deaths and sickness caused by malnutrition and hunger related issues by 10% in 2009 (as compared with 2008 data)."

Now - is that enough to solve world hunger - of course not. There will be sub goals that deal with the root causes of world hunger. For example, I will likely have goals around the number of bags of strong stock seeds and quality fertilizer distributed to appropriate locations, how training on growing food is distributed, or how wealthier countries are sharing their crops.

Will you now apply SMART everywhere? Only if you think you can build a house with only a screwdriver. I do believe that it is highly applicable to areas where you want measurement, but of course it's possible to do meaningful work where you don't want measurements.

I will be happy to fake my way through any examples you want to throw at me in the comments.

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