Get SMART About Your Tasks for Better Project OutcomesDecember 07, 2015 | By Wayne O'Neill
To manage any project effectively, especially a project related to your growth strategy, you must be smart about managing tasks.
Tasks are by nature tactical, so it’s important that you integrate them into your project in a strategic way to make sure they’re moving you toward your objectives.
Start With a List, Then Get S.M.A.R.T.
When managing a project, most people start by listing out all the tasks related to the project. This is a great first step, even though the activity can be tedious. We humans like our lists.
Now take that list of tasks and figure out which 20% of those tasks are the most important, will make the most impact and will move you toward your project goals the fastest.
More often than not, this is where people stop. They have their list of top-priority tasks and they start charging through them. But the project still hits snags, important tasks still don’t get done, and some of the tasks that did get done really didn’t move the project forward like you thought they would.
To combat this problem, get S.M.A.R.T. about which of those top 20% tasks you focus on first:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic or results-focused
T = Time-bound
Go through those top tasks and line them up with this SMART acronym.
Does the task have a specific outcome related to it? How will you know that the task is complete? What will have changed in the project?
Can you measure the task? Not everything can be measured, so this one will really help you pare down your list to the most vital tasks. Making sure you can measure it as it gets completed will help you avoid nebulous tasks. What numbers can you assign to that task?
Is the task attainable, or in other words, achievable? Is it realistic to expect that this task will get done, get done right, and get done in the time expected?
Is your task realistic in terms of the results you want from this project? Will it actually move you toward your growth objectives? What can you realistically commit yourself and your team to?
Can you assign a date to the task – even an artificial one? This one is easy to miss, but might be the most critical piece. If there’s not an end date, the odds of completing the task are minimal. If it’s not scheduled, it won’t get done.
Now your list of top tasks can be pared way down. Focus your team’s energy on the SMART tasks first and you’ll see bigger, faster movement toward your project goals.
An Example Task Breakdown
Take this task, for example: Grow the business by 200%.
That’s not specific enough, nor is it attainable, particularly realistic or at all time-bound.
The only thing you can say about that task is that it’s measurable.
This would NOT go on your list of top priorities. You’d have to break this down into many sub-tasks and probably create a separate project out of it.
Now how about this growth-strategy task?: Land three new higher-education projects with minimum budgets of $X by July 31.
That is specific, measurable, most likely attainable, realistic in terms of the results you want (to grow your business), and time-bound. This is a task you can feel good about putting your team’s energy toward completing.
That said, this task can still be broken down further into sub-tasks! But you get the point.
The Bottom Line
You can use the SMART methodology in your projects, your individual yearly career goals, and your big growth strategy. But where I really want you to use it is in your go-to-market activities. You’ll see more substantial results with a lot less frustration on the part of your project team.