When SMART can be a PEST

19th Aug 2016

SMART has been around for over 30 years, maybe more and I believe was attributed to Peter Drucker. We know it stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound and over time a few further variations have appeared.

  • Strategic
  • Measurable
  • Achievable or Agreed or attainable or action-oriented or ambitious or aligned with corporate goals
  • Relevant or Realistic or Resourced or reasonable or results-based
  • Timely or Time-based or time limited or time/cost limited or time-sensitive or time framed.

I’m sure many of us have had discussions about the most appropriate version to use when attempting to compile a set of indicators around the SMART principles.

Others have even added to the mnemonic with:-

  • SMARTER  Evaluated and reviewed or Evaluate consistently and recognise mastery
  • SMARTTA Trackable and agreed
  • SMARRT Realistic and relevance 'Realistic' refers to something that can be done given the available resources. 'Relevance' to the bigger picture and vision.

However in my view they don’t add much. Whichever variation you choose they will enable you build robust indicators that can keep the business on track. The question then arises that if this is the case what part of SMART, if any, moves the business to the next level, or is that not part of the intent or theory?

With companies now required to reinvent themselves and with household names disappearing more frequently there exists a requirement to find the inflection points that will trigger the need for re invention. This inflection point could be due to a combination of new entrant competition, skills change or erosion or scarcity, technology shifts, new process innovation, consumer tastes, to name but a few. Effective monitoring then becomes vital.

Businesses need to continue to review the way they are doing things especially the way business activity is being reported and herein lies the problem. Unfortunately the time to start making changes is whilst the business is still growing so what are we looking for and does SMART help us to see better or blind us?

It’s clear there are many vectors playing both for and against the success of any enterprise. Some of the indicators are not tangible being qualitative and may only be a small piece of intelligence. It really depends on which direction we are looking. If the focus is purely on the numbers then all indication will show growth and success. But as we all know the time to get concerned is when everything is going well and even then there are undercurrents that can start to create uncertainty if you know where to look.

Changes in competition, new entrants, existing v new customer engagements, product / service longevity, new services, products and delivery mechanisms, employee skill sets, demographic & adaptability, technology changes, consumer tastes, etc. can be subtle and as there isn’t one particular department looking for all of these trend changes then they’re to miss and no one wants to spoil the party with bad news when everything is going so well. Sales and profits are up and someone comes in to say that they have heard about a small start-up in China making something similar. Well we all know the stories.

PEST or PESTLE, and there are a number of other variations, needs to be incorporated into any reporting and tracking regime. PEST covers Political, Economic, Social and Technological analysis with L and E being Legal and Environmental. If we then incorporate Porters 5 factors which will look at new entrants, disrupters etc. then this should cover most of the areas that are conspiring to throw any company off course including declining skills or skill shifts. Any business update needs to contain all of these elements as in many cases one activity could well be impacting another.



So as well as being SMART about what we are doing today we have to be a Porter and a PEST about what we are going to do tomorrow. 

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