Warning: Ejection Seat

You have to plan where you’re going so you end up in the right seat.

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” – Melody Beattie 

Setting goals is an important ritual that marks the end of one year and the beginning of the next. It is an avenue for introspection, a filter to sort out the irrelevant, and to influence behavior. A goal is a statement of a person’s, team’s or organization’s ambition.  A goal can be strategic or tactical depending on how a goal is stated.  You can use a framework to consistently develop goals. A consistent framework can help you not to forget some key considerations that are useful for translating an idea into action. Such as ensuring goals are tangible enough to be measured. There are a huge number of frameworks, including SMART, PASTIE, and BHAG to name a few.

The most commonly used framework in corporate environments is SMART. SMART stands for:

  • Specific – The definition of the goal covering the five w’s (who, what, where, when, which and why).
  • Measurable – The goal can be tracked and evaluated quantifiably.
  • Attainable – Achieving the goal is possible.
  • Relevant – The goal is worthwhile to pursue and this is the right time to pursue the goal.
  • Time Bound – A specific window of time has been defined

A similar framework PATSIE (also written as PATSy) which refers to goals that are: practical, agreed, timely, systemic, integrated, and enjoyable. The goal in both cases to generate consistently formatted goals are fair to those taking on the goal and possible to attain. That last part is important if the goals are to provide motivation. SMART is a great format for tactical goals and objectives.  Using SMART as a framework for writing goals guides you away from setting grand aspirational goals that are less likely to be attained. For example, if my doctor was not setting SMART goals, he might consider setting a goal to eliminate waiting time for all patients by the end of 2016.  A noble goal; however, since the majority of this essay was written while waiting to have three stitches removed if using SMART as a framework that goal might fail to be attainable. Leveraging SMART, a less lofty goals might be written that doesn’t push the envelope of what is really possible.

There is another framework for setting goals that challenge the tactical view of SMART goals.  BHAG, which stands for big hairy audacious goal, was popularized in the book Built to Last.  A BHAG goal is a long term goal that, if attained, will fundamentally change the nature of an organization. While goals that fit the BHAG mold should be specific, measurable, and time- related, they may be less attainable or realistic than a SMART goal. Less, not necessarily unrealistic or unattainable, because if a goal can’t be attained it will act as a demotivator. A BHAG goal often provides an organization with the energy to break the inertia, rally the troops and to provide a direction for a team or organization. Reducing the wait time for patients would be a BHAG goal for my doctor.  In order to attain that goal, he would have to fundamentally change how he practices, which might mean I might not like going to see him.  BHAG goals can have consequences beyond just attaining the goal.

A framework can be both an aid and a hindrance; it provides structure for organizing and documenting goals, but taken to extremes it can be overly constraining.  Personally, I create both SMART and BHAG goals each year: a mixture of tactical and strategic goals.  The SMART goals will typically be attainable and time bounded and are great for ensuring that the lights stay on and projects move forward; however, to ensure that I continue to reinvent myself I need to factor in something big and audacious.


  • Visualization as a tool
  • The downside of goals in some environments.