The SMART Goals Template: An Agile User Guide to Setting and Managing Realistic Goals

The SMART Goals Template: An Agile User Guide to Setting and Managing Realistic Goals

Setting a business goal for your next project sounds like a simple task. After all, you’re just writing a statement of what you’re trying to achieve. However, writing good goals can be trickier than it looks. It’s easy to get off track, set an unclear scope, leave out a key metric, or get so detailed you start writing a project plan instead of a goal.

Effective goals are clear, concise, and thorough. A good goal statement includes the most relevant information about your goal and avoids unnecessary details. A simple worksheet can help you write better goals. A tried-and-true worksheet for project management is SMART goals.

Gather your team around a virtual whiteboard with the SMART Goals template to develop your goal for the upcoming month, quarter, or project. Use the simple 5-step “SMART” process to draft and refine your goal. Write your goal statement collaboratively, then use it to guide your project planning.

Setting goals and planning projects is easier with Whiteboards’ diagramming tools and a library of 100+ templates. Whiteboards’ templates sync with Jira, allowing you to manage Jira issues without leaving the virtual whiteboard. Create, import, and update Jira issues as you set goals, plan features, troubleshoot problems, or reflect on your last sprint. Deep Whiteboards-Jira integration means all updates appear automatically in Jira, and vice versa.

Start a free Whiteboards Pro trial today to get the SMART Goals template and dozens of other useful planning tools. Keep reading to learn about SMART goals for project managers and teams: what they are, how to write them, and how to use them to their fullest potential.

What are SMART goals? 

“SMART” goals stand for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bounded. SMART goal setting means ensuring your goal meets all five of these requirements. Whether you’re writing a personal goal or setting a work goal with your team, the same parameters apply:

  • Specific: Your goal is stated clearly, with a focus on a narrow and well-defined outcome.
  • Measurable: There is a quantifiable definition of success written into the goal.
  • Achievable: You can reasonably hope to achieve the goal with the resources available.
  • Relevant: The goal aligns with and supports the larger personal or business vision.
  • Time-bounded: There is a specific time frame within which the goal is to be accomplished.

What might this look like in terms of a personal goal? Let’s say you’ve decided to take up long-distance running. Your SMART goal might look like this (note how the SMART letters come into play):

“I will complete [M] the local half-marathon [S] three months from now [T] by following the established training plan my experienced friend suggested [S] that requires 15 training hours per week [A] and is appropriate for my age and fitness level [A] so that I can get more in shape and have the satisfaction of finishing a half-marathon [R].”

Or perhaps you are looking to brush up on a language you once studied, to become more fluent:

“I will understand and speak [M] conversational Italian [S] by the end of the year [T] by spending five hours a week [A] with the self-guided curriculum I purchased [S] and two hours a week [A] speaking Italian with my friend in Italy [S], so that when I visit them early next year I can converse in Italian with them and the people I meet [R].

Notice how each of these goals, though simply stated, creates a specific commitment that is relevant to a larger personal vision. Each goal also has a deadline, a reasonable expectation of success, and a clear measure of that success. 

Setting goals with an Agile team is no different. The SMART goals checklist helps teams set goals in a way that ensures realistic, quantifiable project management.

How do SMART goals for project managers and Agile teams benefit outcomes?

Being Agile includes responding and adapting to new information quickly. However, these pivots should happen within an organized framework. Having a flexible project plan is very different than having no plan at all, and simply responding to whatever arises. 

Agile teams set SMART goals to guide project management. Then they work out the finer details and respond to changing circumstances as they work on the project – all while keeping the end goal in sight.

In this context, setting SMART goals allows a team to:

  • create a shared understanding of what exactly they are working to achieve
  • focus on the who, what, when, where, how, and why of their daily work
  • develop more detailed strategies within a well-defined general framework
  • ensure there is a clear way of measuring whether a milestone has been reached
  • celebrate concrete success when a goal is quantifiably achieved
  • use falling short of a goal as an opportunity to ask important questions
  • analyze their success or failure to prepare for the next business cycle
  • adjust future expectations and strategies based on their retrospective analysis

Without a well-defined goal, it’s easy for team members to end up on different pages about work priorities. SMART goals align the team to a shared purpose by establishing a concrete reference point for success. 

When teams use SMART goals for project management at regular intervals, they also gain a better understanding of the team’s ongoing capacity. They are able to refine their goals over time as they learn to predict more accurately what the team is able to achieve. The business becomes more stable as reliable metrics are established, setting it up for greater success. 

How might a SMART goal go wrong?

The SMART goals checklist is a popular project management tool for a reason. All types of businesses use SMART goals successfully. However, it’s important to consider potential pitfalls in SMART goal management so your team can guard against them. As you set SMART goals, keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t let the SMART goal eclipse the bigger picture. Your SMART goal should be a project management guide, not an end unto itself. Despite your best efforts, the goal may be too ambitious. Scrambling to achieve an overly difficult goal can cause poor short-term decision-making. Let the goal guide you, but don’t develop tunnel vision.
  • Don’t change the SMART goal metrics once the project or campaign is launched. Yes, Agile teams should always be open to pivoting to accommodate new information. However, if you’re not hitting the mark halfway through, don’t simply change numbers on the fly. Accept that you may not reach the goal, then adjust accordingly next time.
  • Don’t create a pass/fail mentality around the “M” in your SMART goal. It’s important to measure your progress in a quantifiable way. However, failing to reach your goal doesn’t indicate general failure. If the team doesn’t reach the SMART goal, don’t treat this as a tragedy. Use it as an opportunity to examine your project management and figure out where you can improve as a team or business.
  • Don’t use SMART goal success as a reason to stop setting goals. When we succeed easily, future goal setting can feel like an unnecessary formality. Use the success to ask if your goal was set too low. If so, challenge the team more next time around. If your goal was right on target, great! Use that information to continue setting goals of similar scope.
  • Don’t fail to follow through on your SMART goal. A goal should focus and motivate the team. This only happens if you revisit and manage the goal throughout the process. Check in regularly and hold a retrospective at the end of the goal’s time frame. Use the information gained from your first SMART goal experience to inform you as you write your next goal.

Why use a SMART Goals template? 

The SMART goals checklist is fairly straightforward. A pen and paper are all you need to write a personal SMART goal. For an Agile team, however, project planning is collaborative. It benefits the team to gather around a whiteboard and establish their goal together, step by step. For remote and distributed teams, a virtual whiteboard can be the best meeting site for this process.

SMART Goals Template on
SMART Goals Template on

In SMART goal project management, you’ll also need a permanent goal statement for ongoing reference. Use the SMART Goals template to write and refine your goal, then save the template on your team’s digital whiteboard. That way, you can review the template periodically to assess your progress. 

At the end of the established time period, check your results against the goal. Use this analysis to inform your process as you write your next team SMART goal. Save each SMART Goals template on the whiteboard, along with notes from your project retrospective, to create a long-term record of your goals and progress.

Using a Whiteboards template for project management also allows you to work with Jira issues during your team whiteboarding sessions. Create Jira issues on the whiteboard, import issues from Jira, and manage those issues all without leaving the Whiteboards. Robust two-way Jira integration makes Whiteboards the perfect tool for keeping your SMART goals and all your project planning on track.

How do I write SMART goals with my team?

Use this SMART goal project management example to guide you.

The SMART goals checklist walks you through goal setting in five steps. Your finalized goal should be concise, only a sentence or two, while including all five qualities that make it “SMART.” 

What might that look like in practice?

Let’s say a marketing team is seeking to increase a product’s customer base by tapping into an identified new market. Using Whiteboards’ SMART Goals template, they work through the letters in “SMART,” refining their SMART goal in each step:

1. Specific: Start with a well-defined goal.

The first step in setting a SMART goal is to be specific. In this SMART Goals project management example, our marketing team’s broader goal can be stated as, “Continue to grow the business by attracting and retaining customers.” In order to make this broad goal specific to the current campaign, the team needs to identify who they plan to reach and how they intend to reach them. 

Based on their market research, the team has identified an untapped market where they expect their product to compete well. They have also pinpointed three likely platforms for reaching this specific customer base. The team has discovered which feature of the product will likely be its primary selling point with this market segment. With only this information, the team’s broader purpose is narrowed down enough to write it in the form of a SMART goal.

The team’s initial SMART goal, which they enter into the “S” row on the template, reads: 

Grow the Product X user base by promoting Feature Y to Market Z in a targeted campaign on Platforms A, B, and C.

2. Measurable: Establish the team’s metrics for success.

Reaching a designated market through certain platforms to promote a unique product feature is a solid specific goal. Next, the team needs to determine how they will evaluate success as they work towards this goal. To do this, they need to ask more questions about their first statement.

For instance, the product they’re promoting has a free version and a paid version. Is their goal to attract customers at any subscription level, or specifically to attract paid subscribers? How many new customers does the marketing team aim to attain during this campaign? 

To make their goal measurable, the team needs to set the goal’s scope and add hard numbers to the goal statement. Their broader plan involves incentivizing current users of the free plan to upgrade. However, that’s not the focus of this particular campaign, which is targeted at attracting new, paid subscribers.

The team revises their SMART goal to reflect the necessary metrics: 

Grow the Product X user base by 2000 paid subscribers by promoting Feature Y to Market Z in a targeted campaign on Platforms A, B, and C.

3. Achievable: Verify that the team can reasonably meet the goal.

With their SMART goal specific and measurable, our example marketing team now needs to ensure that they have the resources to achieve it. The team members do have experience running successful campaigns on each platform named in their statement. They also have the tools they need to do this. So their remaining question is whether or not they have the time.

Based on their previous experience, the team assesses their capacity to determine if they can reasonably do outreach on all the proposed platforms. If not, which platform has the lowest likelihood of reaching the target audience? Are there another means of attracting customers that will involve fewer dedicated resources? After discussing their options, the team opts to remove one platform and add in a tried-and-true tactic: offer paid subscribers one month to test the product for free.

The team updates their SMART goal to make it achievable:

Grow the Product X user base by 2000 paid subscribers by promoting Feature Y to Market Z in a targeted campaign on Platforms A and B and offering new subscribers a free one-month trial.

4. Relevant: Be sure the goal directly supports the larger vision.

Now our sample marketing team needs to assess their goal to ensure that it aligns with the overall goals of the business. Business goals are longer-term than campaign goals, so the team takes that into account. In the case of Product X, research shows that subscribers with certain demographic markers tend to retain their paid subscriptions longer. This retention rate has been linked directly to these customers’ enthusiasm over a specific aspect of Feature Y.

The team might achieve its goal as stated in step 3. However, the results will not support the business in the long run if there is quick subscriber drift. To attract and retain long-term paid subscribers, the team must emphasize Feature Y’s benefits in a specific way. They also need to target this message to a narrower subset of Market Z.

The team refines their SMART goal to better support the company’s long-term success:

Grow the Product X user base by 2000 paid subscribers by promoting Feature Y1 to Market Z1 in a targeted campaign on Platforms A and B and offering new subscribers a free one-month trial.

5. Time-bounded: Set a deadline to achieve the goal.

Since our example marketing team meets quarterly to establish their SMART goals, this step is easy. The team is planning for the second quarter of the business year, using data from the previous quarter and the previous year.

They finalize their SMART goal by specifying its time frame:

Grow the Product X user base by 2000 paid subscribers in Q2 by promoting Feature Y1 to Market Z1 in a targeted campaign on Platforms A and B and offering new subscribers a free one-month trial.

The marketing team’s finalized SMART goal statement is concise and strategic. The team attaches documentation to support their goal writing, but the goal itself remains streamlined and easy to understand.

With their SMART goal established, the team can move on to more detailed project planning. 

How do I manage a SMART goal?

Your first step is setting your SMART goal. Then what? The best goal is still only as good as its execution. Manage your SMART goal by following these next steps:

Schedule periodic SMART goal reviews into your project plan.

Plan to check in regularly to assess your progress toward your goal. For instance, Scrum teams might examine their SMART goal during sprint reviews. Whatever your project management framework, be sure you revisit your SMART goal at regular intervals before the project end date. 

Evaluate your SMART goal progress and adjust the project plan accordingly. 

Assess your progress according to the goal’s established metrics. Discuss any impediments to reaching the goal and ask the team what support they need to achieve the goal by its stated deadline.

Keep in mind as you do this that progress may not be linear. For instance, in our SMART goal example above, the marketing team decided to offer a one-month free trial of the product. This means the first month of the quarter may not bring many paid subscribers. They may only begin to see real progress towards the SMART goal in the second month of the quarter. 

Consider your own SMART goal realistically and don’t despair if it’s not on track. Do your best and remember that your goal is a means to monitor and improve your project management. It is not the ultimate judgment on the success or failure of the team’s work.

Revisit your goal in detail at the end of the project. 

Schedule a SMART goal retrospective or include a focused SMART goal analysis in your larger project retrospective. Whether or not you achieved your goal, ask important questions to learn as much as you can from your SMART goal experience:

Reached or exceeded goal: 
Did we set the goal too low or was it just right?
What were the key components to our success?
What helped us most in reaching our goal?
Was the workload manageable?
Did we establish a good pace that makes this success sustainable in future SMART goal iterations?
What were any key factors that threatened our success in achieving our goal?
Did not reach goal: 
Was our goal too ambitious?
Did all our team members clearly understand the goal?
Were there notable blockers in our project execution?
Did we lack key resources – for instance, personnel, an adequate budget, or specific tools needed to do the job?
Were there significant communication breakdowns with internal or external stakeholders that impeded our progress?

Use what you’ve learned to set your next SMART goal.

Consider your key takeaways as you write a SMART goal for your upcoming project. Let’s briefly revisit our example marketing team from the last section. Their finished SMART goal looked like this:

Grow the Product X user base by 2000 paid subscribers in Q2 by promoting Feature Y1 to Market Z1 in a targeted campaign on Platforms A and B and offering new subscribers a free one-month trial.

In their SMART goal retrospective, the team is facing partial success. They acquired 1800 paid subscribers, falling 200 short of their goal. However, they also gained 600 “free trial” subscribers in the final month of Q2. Based on conversion rates from the first and second months, they project that half of these new customers will stay on as paid subscribers.

In other words, the team succeeded in a roundabout way. Their SMART goal just didn’t account for the delay in results. In their next campaign, they will adjust their SMART goal metrics to accommodate likely conversion rates.

Key SMART goals takeaway? Be like our example team. Set goals using the best information you have, expect to make mistakes, and then track your progress and learn from your mistakes. Reaching your goal is one form of success. The broader success lies in using the SMART goals system to continue to improve your approach!

Work smarter with Whiteboards’ project management tools.

Ready to start working with the SMART Goals template? Try out Whiteboards Pro for free to access over 100 templates designed for every type of work meeting. All templates integrate deeply with Jira so your team can manage their work seamlessly. Hold interactive team sessions, customize templates, create and deliver presentations, and save all your work on an unlimited virtual canvas. 

See what Whiteboards-Jira integration can do for your team by watching our short demo, then try it out for yourself!