Write SMART Goals to Guide Your Development

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Or, something like that . . .

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Defining and writing your development goals is a must to help you clarify just what it is that you want to accomplish to give your inquiry, reflection and actions the necessary focus to get the results you aspire to have. Whether you are working on your own through self-study, or working with a coach or mentor or someone else, beginning with the end in mind is a good place to start. The use of SMART goals was popularized by George T. Doran (1981) in the article “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write managements’s goals and objectives.” Management Review, 70(11), 35.


  • Who: Who is involved?
  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Where: Identify a location.
  • When: Establish a time frame.
  • Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.


  • What indicators are appropriate for my goal?
  • How will I measure my progress? What unit of measure, e.g., how much, how many, how often?
  • How will my immediate superior/coaching sponsors/HR measure my progress?
  • How will I/they know that I’ve done it?


  • Is it possible/realistic to accomplish the goal?
  • What result will I see/get when I have done it?
  • Is the result sustainable?
  • What steps/actions must I do to accomplish the goal?


  • Why is the goal important to me?
  • Who else is the goal important to?
  • What difference will it make in my life/work, for the people who are impacted?


  • When will I accomplish the goal?
  • How realistic is the time frame I am setting?
  • Why is this target time frame important to me and to others impacted by the goal?

One example is given below. Click on the Left or Right square to move the slide show forward or backward.

If you enjoy watching videos, here’s a short video on another example to reinforce how to write SMART developmental goals for yourself.