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Definitions, Leadership, SMART Goals, Student Activites|February 23, 2011 1:51 pm

Be SMART: Entry Planning For Student Leaders

Let us assume that you are already in a leadership role and are now ready to implement the tasks necessary to achieve the goals you set forth for your organization. If you developed a platform for your election, you have a rough sketch of what you would like to achieve.  Hopefully you know what has worked in the past, and you have a keen eye for what may work in the future.  If not ask your advisors what works and ask your group members what they would like to see.  Start brainstorming and set a few short and long term goals for your group.  So how do you go about meeting these goals?

Jump in. Hit the ground running. Activity, activity, activity. We hear this attitude often and we like the excitement; however, we have found that organizations without a solid entry plan tend to have members that soon burnout, or they waste time by holding meetings that are not effective.  The end result, the group begins nixing goal after goal and soon the school year is finished and the group missed out on hitting the big goals.  Trust us, there is no worse feeling than letting your group, your student body, and most importantly yourself down. To avoid leaving your goal list unscathed at the end of your term, it is vital to develop a SMART entry plan.

The goal of an ordinary entry plan is to develop a relevant and easy to understand game plan.  Entry planning is about creating a strong line of communication with a stronger sense of collaboration amongst individuals that want to contribute to their organization.  Conversations, listening, and learning should dominate when developing an entry plan.  By sticking to an entry plan, each member will take ownership of the group’s vision, mission, core beliefs and commitments.  More importantly, each person will have a clear plan of action depicting their roles and responsibilities in the foreseeable future.  Solutions will be presented for questions like:  How are we going to meet our goals?  Who in the group are assigned to what duties?  And when is the goal to be completed?

Taking the ordinary idea of entry planning to the next level – a SMART entry plan is a reality gut check.  SMART planning was developed by project management professionals with big projects in mind.   SMART goals transform entry planning into a data and benchmark driven process that keeps goals in view.  Before we get into the nuts and bolts of SMART planning, it is important to realize the benefits that this approach offers.  By using SMART planning, group members will come away with a stronger awareness of self, their role, and their organization.  Another great benefit derived from this method is the increased ability of a student leader to share their progress with their peers and advisors in detail.  Most importantly, SMART entry planning allows members to gauge their progress accurately, consistently, and concisely.  Trust us, SMART planning is a tool that will follow you long after you leave the college campus.

So what exactly is SMART entry planning?  Well as you may have picked up, SMART is capitalized, signifying yet another mnemonic.  The first known use of the term occurred in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Dora.  Dora set out to explain how goals can be broken down into certain parameters and then reached by fulfilling the requirements set by each parameter.  Luckily, the parameters are easy to understand and implement, particularly in group settings.  So here it goes.

S = Specific

The goals that you and your group should identify should be specific in nature.  To claim that you want to hold an event for the entire student body next semester is not as specific as claiming that the SGA will sponsor an ice cream social next semester to assist clubs and organizations on campus in the recruitment of members.

Specific goals should answer: Who & What

M = Measurable

All the goals that your group sets should be measurable.  Think about it, in the professional world, whether we like it or not, the numbers are what matter.  Now, the term performance may be used more than measurements, but in actuality both have the meaning that certain activities have the ability to be charted for numerical review.  How can you measure the success of an ice cream social?  First, if the SGA wants more student involvement in campus activities, they need to ask how many members student groups have before and after the event.  To say more students are active in groups is not the same as saying, 28 students joined groups during our event, or student involvement increased 22% after our ice cream social.

Measurable goals should be answered with numerical values.

A = Attainable

All to often, we go to campuses to hear the idealistic goals set by student leaders.  We love optimism, but to set goals that take longer than time permits or are larger than your budget permits are not attainable.  To erect a monument that commemorates an alumnus or to better student life space on campus can be attainable.  To commemorate an alumnus by constructing a four story building or to purchase millions of dollars in servers to make your entire campus wifi is most likely not.  Some goals can take a long time to complete, while other projects need the full support of your campus administration.  Not to say that you should not lobby the administration for the Michael Jordan intramural gymnasium or to build out the campus wifi network in the future; however, do not make these large, long term projects the keys to your campaign, or you will certainly over promise and under deliver.

Attainable goals are characterized by their ability to be achievable while you are in office.

R = Relevant

Goals need to pertain directly to the student membership and organization that sets them.  We see issues in this arena, when major campus events are not relevant to the majority of the student body.  Last year, a fiasco occured at a major public university because the students activities committee paid top dollar to bring a famous person to speak on their campus.  The person, which we will not mention by name, but meerly state that she hails from the beaches of New Jersey, caused a major uproar by the student body, alumni, and faculty.  What relevancy does a reality star have on a college campus?

It is debatable, no doubt about it.  However, we suggest that you pay attention to your planning and programming efforts to ensure that they are relevant and being set for the entire organization, not just a few select members.

T = Time Based

Set limits on how long a project should take.  Big projects take longer than small projects, but it is very common that a small task will drag out for months before being resolved.  Small projects are like small thorns in an organization’s side.  If you can not complete small goals quickly, groups will avoid them like the plague, and over time, less small goals will be planned.  Set time lines and stick to them.  Always set a deadline, this will make your group more productive.

Remember to allot enough time to achieve a goal and not too much time, which can affect project performance.  Time bound always answers the question: When?

UPDATE:

To assist your group in developing SMART entry planning goals, our friends at SMARTGOALS.ME developed a Facebook app that you can use for FREE to share and update your progress.

SMARTGoals.me is free goal setting Facebook app for the masses.  Creating and writing SMART goals is as easy as using Facebook.  Setting group goals, improving grades, saving money, and moving towards a better you is a possible reality with this app.  Now featuring Goal Buddy.  Your Goal Buddy can give you tips, advice and encouragement to help you improve your performance and realize your potential!

With the right planning and management anything is achievable!  Especially if you’re SMART about it!  Find out more by clicking here.

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