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SMART is a mnemonic that acts as a guide for effective goal setting. One should always set a SMART goal i.e. the goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Rajeshwari on 3rd Jul 2020


Applause for all the respondents - Mohamed Asif, Swati R Duggal, Rajeshwari, Sudhir Gayakwad, Tushar Maradwar


Also review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.


Q 275. Project goals have to be SMART and A in it stands for achievable. While the causes and solutions are unknown in initial phases of a Lean Six Sigma project, we expect the goal to be achievable. How can this dilemma be addressed?



Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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SMART stands for Specific,Measurable,achievable,relevant and timebound. Ideally for any Six sigma projects we just start the project with a problem statement without much information about the root causes and solutions.

When we set a project goal this would be based on historical data and we can use statistical ways of arriving at the goal or understand what the customer is looking for in terms of the goal and then evaluate the possibility of meeting the same, we can do this by looking at the process capability, has the team been able to deliver the goal at least once historically then it is definitely an achievable target.

 Process Entitlement would then help us set up an achievable goal.

We can look through different ways to baseline target based on the type of data..

  • Identify data type if it is discrete or continuous
  • Identify the  metric requirement (Larger the better or smaller the better)
  • Check stability and normality for continuous data and for discrete check the stability
  • Set up goal with defined confidence level based on the different tests that would be using which is determined based on step 3 outcome


We can also leverage Bench marking data available – Based on the metric and type of industry what is the median or best in class performance for competitors. If the performance is too low we should aim at incremental improvement to median competitor performance and then improve to best in class performance. Now based on where we would want to reach we should look at either process improvement or process redesign

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Benchmark Six Sigma Expert View by Venugopal R

It is believed that the acronym SMART was first used in 1981 by George T Dorain, who worked for Washington Power Company. Since then this acronym has become very popular, accepted widely and also used as guideline for goal setting during the Define phase of a Six Sigma Project. SMART is an excellent tool to guide and focus the thoughts for a team to evolve pragmatic goal for a project.


It is true that a project is decided to be taken through the Six Sigma route only if the causes and solutions are not clear. What is clearly known is the problem, which has a business case derived based on its business impact. The very reason to establish a structure like the DMAIC and the associated tools and methodology is to help the leader and team to think in a structured manner to proceed through a path that has many uncertainties and unknown factors.


The approval and support for the project team by project sponsor and the leadership is an essential requirement without which a Six Sigma project seldom succeeds. As part of the charter approval, it is important that the Project leader, Sponsor and the Executive Leadership agree that the project is not only important for the business at that point of time, but also that the goal that has been set is considered on consensus as achievable. Since the exact causes nor the solutions are known at that point of time, the criteria for 'achievability' has to be based on several other factors. 


Ideally the Goal for a Six Sigma project has to be challenging enough to be accomplished with some amount of stretch, but the ‘challenge’ should not be ‘unrealistic’ based on the capabilities and resource availability for the project team.


The project goals are usually deployed from the Strategic business goals or from Current Pain points of the organization. If the project goal is deployed from a Strategic Business Goal, then it becomes a critical prerequisite to fulfill the larger business requirement. When the strategic goals are decided, the organization plans for necessary budget, knowledge, technology and other resources. If this planning is done with adequate thought, a good deal of support that is necessary for a deployed project would get built in. Once the project is seen within such a framework by all the concerned stakeholders, judging its 'achievability' becomes more realistic. The involvement of the stakeholders mentioned above is key.


On the other hand, if the responsibility of deciding and setting the SMART goals is vested only with the project leader without adequate involvement, review nor support from the other parties, there is risk on the project goal not aligning with the broader business goals and 'achievability' becomes questionable. This is a mistake that happens in many organizations where many Lean Six Sigma projects do not progress successfully.


Another important point to be noted is that the “A” in SMART goal cannot be seen without associating with the rest of the alphabets. Often, the project goals start with a broad thought, viz. “Improve Market Share”. Once we make it Specific, we would have to think and stipulate more details such as “Market share for Product A”, “Market share within a certain region” etc.


As part of the 'Measurability', the commonly accepted reliable method of measure is established. Although it may be argued that these detailing happen during the Measure phase, the DMAIC phases do not take place as rigid sequence and some back and forth movement is essential. One has to think in totality keeping in mind all the phases, at every stage of the project. We already discussed about the ‘Relevance’ of the project with respect to the overall business goals. The ‘Achievability’ has to be credible within a time period, thus emphasizing the importance of ‘Time Bound’.


Other factors that may be considered to judge the ‘Achievability’ of the Goal include:

  • Review the type of the goal – whether it is relating to “compliance gap” or “enhancement related”.
  • If it is a compliance gap for an existing target, compare with past performance trend for same / similar processes.
  • Based on the above, assess the process potential and process capability of the organization to achieve the target.
  • If it is an enhancement kind of target, compare with industry benchmarks and then compare whether the organization is equipped (or has plans to equip) with required capabilities, resources and know-how.
  • Consider the level of the project. Is it a Green Belt or Black Belt? Again, this will also be reflective of experience, capabilities and track record of the team leader and the team members for achieving the set target

While a project goes through the Define phase and Measure phase, it is possible that many facts would surface and the level of clarity about the project definition will enhance than what it was when the initial charter was developed. This elevates the confidence level of the team and It is important to revisit the charter and goals, by which the ‘Achievability’ will get re-assessed and the goal may be revised accordingly.

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In six sigma - DMAIC methodology goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound and the goal of the project should be aligned to the issue/problem that we are trying to solve.


A in SMART, Referring to - Attainable, Agreed upon, Achievable, Acceptable, Action-oriented


Attainable is the important element and needs to be considered thoughtfully.
Attaining defect % of less than 1% from 50% might not be possible in the due course of the project with out knowing the causes and the solution path.

Below are few questions that can be asked while framing the goal..

  • Is 50% allowed?
  • Accepted defect%?
  • Cost of Poor Quality?
  • FTR%
  • Control measures in place
  • Frequency of defects?
  • Defect Detection methods?
  • What is the financial Impact?
  • What is the GAP? Actual Versus Desired
  • How to ensure Quality at source (Quality by design, monitoring and control, self check and verification)

Based on the response, aggressive but reasonable goals are drafted.


One should have clear understanding of the current state (current performance – baseline) and the future state (desirable performance – target), do gap analysis to verify whether it is reasonable/possible while starting the six-sigma project and framing the goal statement.




It is not hard and fast rule when it comes to the Goal statement. Entire project charter is a Living Document and can be revised/revisited as we get more clarity while we progress through the phases and during the iteration.


To keep from overwhelming, goals should be fine-tuned/broken down into action steps and we should not try to take over the world in one night by setting unachievable goals.


Few vital pointers with regards to Goal:
• Achievable and Attainable – Practical with the assigned target value
• Realistic – with the existing resource and available time 
• Action-oriented – defined plan of action

Specifically Goal should be possible within the defined ability.


Take Away: Achieving Goal is far more realistic when being Specific.


“A Goal without a Plan is just a Wish” - Antoine de saint-exupéry


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The goal can be considered as achievable when we know of the constraints associated with the success of the goal. So even if the causes and solutions are unknown in the initial stages, outlining the constraints and measures of success can address this dilemma and make the goal "achievable".

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Every morning comes with a small goal of the life, it may be some to do task for that day, completion of the pending or incomplete activity started yesterday or few days back. Basically all big goals are divided in small goals and as these small goals are completed everyone completes a big Goal.


Before forming any Goal it has to be achievable and hence achieved. If not achieved, there could be less inputs put in, inputs may be not in right and specified direction or not in specific way.

One more factor is, if Goal is not achievable???? In this case it is all waste, wastage of all activities done, time spent, money spent, morals invested, expectations etc.


For that all Goals are always SMART – Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant and Time bound.


So it is very essential, Goal has to be ACHIEVABLE!


Before we come to know if any Goal – may be improvement in the system for example – reduction in production time of a product, or cost reduction etc, is achievable or not, it is essential to have complete knowledge of the activity.


Where from  this Knowledge Comes???


Balanced Score Card-  It gives us a big picture of the performance of the organization with respect to different metrics decided by the organization. These are the performance indicators which indicate the area organization doing well and the area where need urgent attention as the performance of the organization is always a combined performance of all areas or metrics.

Lean-  What is Lean Philosophy? Reduction of all sort of wastage, yes in simple language.

Where are the waste is most important question everybody ask himself or other.

For this there are few tools derived, applied and proven.

Value stream mapping – As denoted by the word ‘mapping’ it maps, observes, analyze the complete flow of the activities, processes carried out to produce a product or any required service. SIPOC is the High level map of the processes carried out which gives the connections between the process with respect to Supplier, Input, Process, Output and Customer. In this each and every element is important as it is having its own importance on the performance of the processes and collectively on the manufacturing process as a whole.


Typical steps involved are-

1.       Document the specific customer requirements.

2.       Follow, map each and every process contributing to the complete manufacturing.

3.       Collect the data of the processes with respect to –

a.       Cycle time,

b.      Available time,

c.       Set up time,

d.      Batch Size,

e.      Quality ( Rejection, defect etc),

f.        Rework if any

g.       Number of people working at a station,

h.      Equipment performance level.

i.         Number of shifts.

4.       Note down all above information along with inventory at each station,

5.       The above information will give the relationship between every element.


*** Here there comes analysis of each step whether it is


                                                                    Value Adding – for which Customer is willing to pay.

                                                                     Non Value Adding – for which Customer is not going to pay.


Goal is to elimination of Non Value adding processes or steps, if not possible complete, reduction in the steps is essential.


1. Brainstorming within the team and elimination of the unwanted steps will give the achievable solution to the problem of waste reduction.

2. 5S is the most encouraging visual tool to give achievable control on inventory of spares.

3. Line balancing will highlight the bottleneck at the process and also how to remove that bottleneck may be by adding more machines or manpower. This also leads to reduction in the excess manpower in the system.

4. SMED approach with eliminating on the job non value activities and converting maximum possible on the job activities to the odd the job will reduce the set up time.

5. Process Performance measure – Is the mathematical tool which gives throughput rate, lead time, Cycle time. These parameter suggest achievable actions to improve them to achieve goal of process efficiency improvement.

6. Simulation is another aspect in which with scientific calculated assumptions and with crystal ball we can fix achievable Goal to improve the process.

7. Hypothesis testing a part of Inferential statistics, is a systematic tool which   allows us whether to accept or reject the claim (the goal in question). This is another approach to find achievable goals.

8. Correlation and regression analysis which gives the relationship between two variables. This relationship also can lead to achievable goals by controlling one variable.

9. Pareto Analysis – It also gives relationship between many different inputs and gives major contributors to be controlled.


The results of all above activities help us to decide achievable results for the activities in the goal statement. 

This will help to decide achievable Goal!

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SMART abbreviation was first written in 1981 by George Doran, it stands for S- Specific, M-Measurable, A – Achievable, R- Realistic, T – Timely, which guides for goal setting and increase the chances of fulfill project objectives. Setting SMART goals helps to clarify ideas, focus efforts with time and effective resource utilization which resulted in increase our chances of achieving Project goals. 


In SMART , A stands for Achievable, though at initial phase, causes and solutions are unknown in project but in this phase we should do broad level preliminary study by following points,

  • Is it in principle possible or not?
  • The necessary resources (Time, Budget, Talent) are available or there is a realistic chances of getting it.
  • What have been done and achieved so far, it will help to understand what jump we want to take or step back.
  • Asses limitation with respect to Business point of view.

These points will help to define achievable goals, rather then simply define virtually impossible goals. Once we define Achievable goals then later on stage we can do deep dive to identify right root cause and solutions for it by different tools and technique which is quite different than broad level preliminary study.

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Rajeshwari's answer has highlighted the methods of checking if the goal is achievable and hence has been selected as the best answer.


Also review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.

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