Forget SMART Goals – Do you have DUMB goals?

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on July 14, 2010 · 3 comments

A lot is written and taught about developing SMART goals. I wrote about the topic earlier this year when everyone was developing their annual goals in the post Forget the New Year’s Resolutions.

There are mistakes in developing goals that I find far too common. Let’s call them DUMB goals. It’s not that the people are dumb, just the goal. Here’s what DUMB goals stands for.

D is for Distracting

There is only so much we should be focused on at one time. It is easy to write more and more goals on top of other goals; there are things that would be nice, there are things that would make life easier. But there are also things that absolutely must get done. Don’t write goals that help you lose focus and distract you from the truly important priorities.

U is for Underwhelming

Don’t write goals that don’t impress or challenge. If you know exactly how the goal will be a achieved without any additional effort or thought, then it’s not much of a challenge. It doesn’t require focus and effort if it’s that easy. If goals are underwhelming, they will fail to inspire you, even though it’s your goal. You will lose interest. And even if you achieve them, it is not because of some great effort. Goals should stretch, push, and focus you. Don’t write underwhelming goals.

M is for Mundane

If a goal is mundane, will you get up on Monday morning ready to tackle it? I doubt it. It will be very hard to get continuous progress on the goals if they are boring or fail to excite you. Much of the time this comes down to what we pick. But even if we pick inherently boring goals, we must turn them into something exciting and visionary. If your goal is “finally clean up my messy office” then imagine how many times you will procrastinate on that one. Turn that into “establish a world-class office designed for high productivity.” Same goal – much more exciting.

B is for Bureaucratic

Don’t write bureaucratic goals – those that look impressive but just generate work for people. “Build a multi-dimensional productivity standard and establish a review meeting.” You may have to do that same work, but that’s not the goal. That’s just building a bureaucracy to support the real goal, which is probably “improve productivity by 30 percent.”

It’s easy to write DUMB goals because it’s often easy to get buy-in for those goals. Goals should inspire. Goals should challenge. Goals should spur the imagination. Goals should create tension.

1 Gregg Marzano July 14, 2010 at 9:14 am

Love the DUMB goals. Been living with SMART Goals for too long. I can not tell you how many corporate plans ask for three goals for each market and 5 action steps, blah blah blah. Let’s create some tension! Let’s set goals that change the status quo!

2 John July 16, 2010 at 9:34 am

Very well said. Truly, goals are set to drive your thoughts and to give meaning to your actions, It is created so that you can put in much efforts to what you do and inspires you as you do it. DUMB goals must not be practiced. 🙂

3 Michael Lombard July 28, 2010 at 9:53 am

Love it, Jamie. Creatively done, sir. The DUMB acronym represents reality quite well from my experience. Thanks for pointing it out.

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