By Carol Haig, CPT, and Roger Addison, CPT, EdD

We caught up with Glenn Hughes just after the ISPI conference in Orlando. Glenn,, is the Director of Global Learning for KLA-Tencor Corporation in Santa Clara, CA, where he brings his considerable international experience to his role. KLA-Tencor manufactures inspection tools for computer chip production and does 80% of its business in Asia. Glenn contributes his Aggressively S.E.T. Goals Assessment to the TrendSpotters Open Toolkit (TOT).

Genesis of the Aggressively S.E.T. Goals Assessment
A few years ago Glenn researched SMART goals to unearth the origins of the acronym and to determine the extent to which most business goals meet the SMART criteria. He reviewed almost 400 published books that reference SMART, and found no consistent definition for the acronym and more than a million variations for how S, M, A, R, and T were explained. Apparently, practitioners and writers were adapting the acronym to cover a broad range of situations.

Glenn decided to create a more robust tool, based on the SMART acronym, and called the tool the SMARTometer. It consists of 24 criteria and is designed to deliver repeatable results in goal writing. The Aggressively S.E.T. Goals Assessment is one of the 24 criteria in the SMARTometer. This model provides users with a simple and effective way to evaluate goals.

Description of the Model
The Aggressively S.E.T. Goals Assessment asks three questions to determine if a goal is likely to produce meaningful results. Does the goal:

  • Scare the Competition?
  • Engage the Team?
  • Thrill the Customer?

For each question, we answer either yes, somewhat, or no. Then we total each of these and complete the formula that follows. When the cumulative total is 3 or less, there is work to be done on the goal.

This model is scalable. We can apply it to our own individual professional goals, to those of staff members, teams or projects, or to goals for our division or entire organization.

How To Use the Aggressively S.E.T. Goals Assessment
Let’s try out the model. Suppose you are an engineer and you have this goal: Cross-train fellow engineers on common tasks to free up time to work on improvement projects.

  • Do you think this goal will Scare your competition? Probably not. They’ll be thrilled to know you aren’t working on research and development to put them out of business. Let’s mark this question no.
  • Will this goal Engage others you collaborate with? Not likely as the goal is neither inspiring nor visionary. This question gets a no as well
  • Will your customers be Thrilled with this goal? They will not be remotely interested as there are no benefits to them. And this question gets another no.

When we plug our three zeros into the formula, we see that we should start over with this goal. On the other hand, consider a company like Apple, or Google. Do you think their goals would score high on all three questions?

Glenn says, “If 80% of the people in an organization achieve 80% of their goals, but the organization’s key ‘needles’ don’t move, then the goals are likely to be too vague, irrelevant, or not Aggressively S.E.T.” Use this model, then, to assess goals that are specific and relevant but still are not making an impact on results.

Success Story
Glenn recently worked with an organization whose goals met the traditional definition of SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Despite meeting these goals year after year, the organization was experiencing only incremental improvement. The Aggressively S.E.T. Goals Assessment showed that the organization was writing compliance goals. Such a goal might read, “Submit 95% of Customer Case Reports within 4 hours of Case Close”. While this is an important metric, it should not be included in annual goals. Rather, it belongs in the job description, and annual goals should describe the activities and measures that will move the needle. Glenn put all of the organization’s compliance goals on a compliance dashboard that managers could easily access, and then wrote new goals that would Engage the Team and Thrill the Customer. A key customer survey is coming up soon, and the team is expressing confidence that they will score well, because the team goals are now focused on the right measures.

Advice to Users
Leverage the scalability of the Aggressively S.E.T. Goals Assessment in any of these ways:

  • Assess your own goals
  • Assess your organization’s goals and then determine how well they align with the organization’s mission and vision
  • Use the model at each of the three levels of your organization: Worker/Individual/Team, Work/Process, Workplace/Organization
  • For any goal you assess that scores in the Needs Work or Start Over range, determine what changes will move the needle

Glenn says that this assessment resonates with key stakeholders. Front-line employees like it because it asks if they are being engaged. Sales and marketing functions like it because it asks if the customer is thrilled. Executives like it because it’s short, easy, and results-oriented. At the same time, expect some blank stares and uncomfortable silences when you first ask the questions. Many groups will realize that they’ve had few goals of this caliber over the past few years, but they will also appreciate that this assessment can be a game-changer.

Links to the Performance Technology Landscape
The Aggressively S.E.T. Goals Assessment includes these principles of Performance Technology:

R Focus on Results – Goals reflect results
S Take a System view – The model is scalable at all three organizational levels
V Add Value – Goals are measurable
P Establish Partnerships – Establishing goals is a collaborative process

Application Exercise
Choose a goal at any one of the three organizational levels. Apply the model. Determine how to enhance the goal to get a yes response to each of the three questions.

How Can Performance Improvement Specialists Improve Clients’ Results?
The Aggressively S.E.T. Goals Assessment can help you set personal, observable goals with a client. That client has to be able to articulate how the situation will be different when the appropriate goal has been met. This model can support you as you help your client fine-tune SMART goals.

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