Goals can be DUMB

November 1, 2001
Orlando Ceaser
Orlando Ceaser

Orlando Ceaser is president & CEO of Watchwell Communications. He was formerly the senior director of diversity for AstraZeneca. He is the author most recently of “The Isle of Knowledge.”

Pharmaceutical Representative

A new approach to setting goals

Volumes have been written on the relationship between effective goal-setting and performance. We have been taught that goals are critical, not optional; they are serious and should not be pursued with a cavalier approach. Goals were supposed to be SMART:

S = specific

M = measurable

A = attainable

R = relevant or realistic

T = trackable

I have a slightly different way of looking at goals, which is compatible with the SMART concept: I want you to remember that goals should be DUMB. They should be:

D = directional

U = understandable

M = measurable

B = believable

DUMB goals

The D is for directional - goals must state a course and a destination. What do you want to accomplish? When you get there, what will it look like? Do you want to increase or decrease something, stay the same, become something or achieve something? Where do you want to go?

The U is for understandable. Goals must be clearly stated and communicated to ensure precision in their interpretation and avoid ambiguity. Ask yourself whether there is more than one meaning that can be derived from your words, or more than one way to interpret your intent. If the answer is yes, then you have to rephrase the goal.

Additionally, the language must fit the audience, and the vocabulary must suit the vocation. Simplicity is better than complexity. Years ago, I was fascinated with polysyllabic words. I thought they sounded impressive and made me look smart. However, they diminished my ability to communicate when the audience did not understand me. The goal is to communicate, not complicate. The first step is to deliver a clear and concise message. The second is to get feedback to ensure that you were successful. You need to determine if you made a direct hit in their minds. This is not about comprehension; it is about delivery of a succinct, coherent sound bite of information.

The M is for measurable. You need to quantify the goal. How much? How many? How will you know if you are almost there? How will you know when you have arrived? What are the milestones, markers and data points that will allow you to monitor results? You need to know how you are doing so that you can applaud progress or make necessary adjustments.

Lastly, the B indicates that goals must be believable. People must have faith in their ability to hit the target, achieve the objective or perform the act. The goals must be authentic, legitimate and within the realm of possible attainment. They must be relevant and not a waste of time. They may cause you to stretch, but stretching is good for you. When possible, we should include those responsible for implementing the goals into the goal-development process; this increases buy-in and cooperation.

Belief in a goal will energize an individual and team while establishing an atmosphere of trust and cooperation.

Effective goal-setting can be developed by anyone. There is nothing magical or mysterious about it. Whether they are SMART or DUMB, well-set goals will improve performance. PR