Going Lean: Setting SMART Goals

Two weeks ago, I recommended a few books about business and entrepreneurship, and Eric Ries’ Lean Startup made it to that list. Ries’ approach to entrepreneurship heavily relies on Lean manufacturing, a management philosophy derived from the Toyota Production System in the 1990s when Toyota identified seven wastes (“muda”) to eliminate to improve overall customer value.

You can apply Lean tools to most aspects of your life; you don’t have to be in manufacturing or management to streamline processes. This week, we’ll discuss setting achievable and clear goals using the SMART goals method. 

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Specific. To ensure that your goals are achievable and clear, use the following criteria when setting goals.

  • Specific: simple, sensible, significant
  • Measurable: meaningful, motivating
  • Achievable: agreed, attainable
  • Relevant: reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based
  • Time-Specific: time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive


When setting a goal, it should be clear and specific. If you can answer the following questions, you should be able to focus and be motivated to complete the goal.

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is this goal important?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where is it located?
  • Which resources or limits are involved?


A component of staying motivated and on-task is to track your progress. A measurable goal should address questions such as:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?


A goal that is achievable is realistic. Any opportunities and challenges that affect the success of your goal must be taken into account.

  • How can I accomplish this goal?
  • How realistic is the goal based on other constraints (e.g. financial factors)?


Relevance means that the goal does not conflict and aligns with other goals. A relevant goal answers “yes” to these questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this match our other efforts/needs?
  • Am I the right person to reach this goal?


A goal should have a deadline to prevent everyday tasks from taking priority over your longer-term goals. A time-specific goal will answer these questions:

  • When?
  • What can I do six months from now?
  • What can I do six weeks from now?
  • What can I do today?

By answering all these questions when developing your goals, you will ensure that you aren’t setting yourself up for failure and that the goals you set will be achieved within a set period of time.


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