Origins of the SMART Goals

In a previous post I talked about setting SMART goals to help you achieve better efficiency in your life. Today I’m going to talk about where your SMART goals should come from and a framework for the rest of this blog. SMART Goals stem from an organization or person’s mission, vision, or values.

Mission statements, vision statements, and values are typically used by organizations to establish where the company is heading and to determine why the organization exists in the first place. Missions, visions, and values are established for the organization to use as a guidepost. If you aren’t familiar with the difference between mission statements, vision statements, and values here is a quick summary:

Mission Statement: Describes what the organization or you do.

Vision Statement: Describes how the organization or you see the future.

Values: A judgement of what is important.

Mission statements, vision statements, and values establish a purpose and provide a foundation through which an organization or you function.  Once a mission statement, vision statement, or a value is established one can determine how to proceed.

You can think of mission statements, vision statements, and value statements as forming the base of a pyramid.  From the base of the pyramid goals, strategy, and then tactics emerge. Pyramid


Goals are your desired result. Strategy is a plan designed to achieve one of your established goals.  Tactics are a specific action you are taking as part of your larger strategy

You must “climb” the pyramid in the hopes of obtaining a successful result.  Although there is only one mission statement, vision statement, and set of values that form the basis for what you do, there can be an unlimited amount of goals, strategies and tactics that are derived from your base. Here is an example of how the pyramid can be used:

Mission, Vision, or Value: One of my values is efficiency.

Goal: My SMART Goal is to efficiently save X dollars for retirement by a certain date

Strategy: One of my strategies for saving X dollars for retirement will be to reduce my overall tax liability.

Tactics: One of my tactics to reduce my overall tax liability will be to use my company 401(k).

In my future posts I’ll be getting into the trenches and discussing strategies and tactics you can use to improve your efficiency.

Do you have a personal mission statement, vision statement, or set of values? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

Measure Measure Measure

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Peter Drucker

This is a famous quote in the six sigma and quality circles that I hang out with. I get invited to some pretty awesome parties.

When I first started working as a process engineer I got to witness an interesting phenomena.

A new boss high up in the process department had been hired, and he was very interested in knowing and improving our daily throughput. Every time he was around he would ask us how the throughput was going. He requested new reports that prominently displayed our daily throughput. When we had a good day on throughput he would congratulate us on our hard work.

However, the truth was before the new boss started we were already doing everything we could to get more throughput.  Since he had started we actually hadn’t changed anything.

As time wore on I expected no improvement in throughput, but I was wrong. The new boss kept asking everyone about throughput and slowly we started to get more throughput. Nothing drastic, but sure enough I could pull up the data and there it was. We were doing 3 or 4 percent better than a several months before. I couldn’t figure out how we had pulled off a little better performance until one day I was out talking to an operator and he told me about how he had switched out one piece of equipment for another one to try to increase throughput. The new equipment gave us a little better throughput in one area, but it ended up causing a bunch of other maintenance issues.

A few months down the road we got a new boss who didn’t care much about throughput. Instead he wanted to know all about availability and maintenance issues. Once again not much change initially but over time as the new boss let everyone know how important availability and maintenance issues were. Slowly everyone made all the small adjustments to improve the availability and maintenance issues and the data showed we were doing a little bit better in availability and maintenance. The funny thing is that the throughput also slowly slipped back to where it used to be.

My story illustrates two important points about measurement.

  1. Measurement makes you aware of where you used to be and where you are now.
  2. You need to measure the correct things. (HINT: throughput and availability were both poor choices in isolation)

Have you ever started measuring or tracking something and quickly found ways to improve? Leave a comment and let me know.

Jeff N. was the winner of last week’s drawing for “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement”. Thank you to everyone who registered.

The Three Inputs to Efficiency

Earlier this week I talked about goals or the outputs of the efficiency equation.  This post I will be talking about the inputs to the efficiency equation. There are two ways you improve efficiency over time: (1) to get more outputs with the same inputs and (2) to get the same outputs with less inputs.

Anything you do can be considered an input; thus, there are infinite inputs that can be examined. For the purpose of simplicity I’m going to categorize all inputs as either Time, Capital (Money), or Skill.  Inputs within each category have their limits.  For instance, there is only so much time, money, or skill an individual possesses.

Time: Every single person has 1,440 minutes to use every day. The people who make the best use of those limited minutes will reach their goals more easily than those who choose to waste that valuable time.

Capital: Unless you are like my hero Warren Buffet, you also have a limited amount of capital and money to deploy towards reaching your goals. Making sure that each dollar you have works as hard for you as you do for it is important to making your life efficient.

Skill: Skills are knowledge, techniques, or abilities we use to achieve our goals. We learn to use skills starting at a very young age. Supply and demand will determine how valuable your skills are in the open market. The more difficult and rarer your skills are the most valuable they will likely be.

I should also mention that these inputs are all linked to each other. TriangleYou can use money to buy additional time or skills. You can use your skills and time to earn capital. When evaluating whether you are becoming more efficient you need to look at the whole picture and not just one aspect. For example, if I want to reduce the amount of time it takes me to mow my lawn I could just hire a lawn maintenance service and reduce my total time spent; however, I would be paying a bill for the service, ignoring the money and capital aspect of inputs equation.

Don’t forget I’m giving away one copy of “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement” to a randomly selected subscriber to my website. You have to be registered by 8 pm PST on Sunday to be eligible for the drawing. Add your name and email off to the right to be entered.

What are you going to make efficient?

In my last post I talked about how the measure of efficiency is a simple idea. The equation for efficiency is a measure of the outputs divided by the inputs. During this post I’m going to explore how we should look at the outputs of the efficiency equation in terms of goals.

Before I started my MBA I read a book called “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. This book changed the The goalway I thought about life. Without ruining the book for you, I will just say that the main character learns that having the correct goal is far more beneficial than improving any single metric at the factory he works at. Without a consistent goal to work towards, our efforts become scattered and fragmented. After reading the book I realized that without an overarching goal we are just wandering about aimlessly.

Goals provide a target for achievement, or something to work towards.  In the efficiency equation your goals are the same as your outputs.  As goals are the end product for efficiency, it is important to think about and set valuable goals. So how can we make these goals the best they can be? I like to use and would recommend using SMART goals. When you set SMART goals you really need to think the process through to get the most out of it.

Specific – Goals need to be as specific and detailed as possible.

Measurable – This is how you will know your goal has been accomplished. I think this is the most important part and often one of the most difficult. There will be more on this topic later.

Achievable – Is it realistic that you can actually do this?

Relevant – Is this goal worth doing?

Time-bound – When do I expect to accomplish this goal? What is a realistic time frame?

I will be giving away a copy of “The Goal” to one randomly selected email subscriber of my website. The cut off to subscribe will be this Sunday (6/12/16) at 8 pm. Don’t miss this chance to get an incredible book. Just add your email in the right hand side of this post. If you are in the Elko area and don’t win send me a message and I will let you borrow my copy of the book.

Meet Matt Warnert

Hi Everyone, if we haven’t met my name is Matt Warnert.  I live in Elko, Nevada with my wife, soon to be one-year-old daughter, needy but lovable dog, and very elderly cat.  I am a professional chemical engineer and project manager.  I work at a gold mine currently managing large capital projects.  I also have been involved with ore processing and gold recovery.  I am currently in my last semester of graduate school for my executive MBA.

As you read this blog you are going to learn about efficiency.  Efficiency is something I think about on a daily basis and I want to change how you think about every interaction you have with the world and wonder how it could go better. The simple definition of efficiency is really just a measure of how much output you get for a given amount of input at a single point in time. The idea is generally used in engineering settings to benchmark certain processes, but it also has applications across everything we do. I know efficiency sounds like a pretty mundane and boring term engineers use to describe how well something is working, but if you make conscious decisions to improve efficiency, over time the compounding effects can have a dramatic impact on everything you do.

Knowing how efficiently something is running at a single point in time is a meaningless number unless you have context to the situation. That is why it is very important that you measure and understand how efficient you currently are and periodically review that to see if you improving over time.

I intend to cover ways to improve your efficiency in the use of your time, capital, and skills. In some way, shape, or form everyone has at least one item on that list they want to do better at. By using a systematic and structured approach to efficiency improvement everyone can lead a life that more like the ideal one they envision.

Please subscribe to my blog on the right hand side of this page and help make the world a more efficient place.