Evaluační teorie a praxe
Ročník 3(1)
2015
Odborné stati

SMART or Not: Are Simple Management Recipes Useful to Improve Performance in a Complex World?

Benedict Wauters

Abstract

This paper provides a critical reflection of widely used concept of SMART goals (the idea that for better performance purposes the objectives should be specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-related) as required in the EU Financial Regulation. The origin of this concept is investigated and its main features are confronted with relevant research in the area of (i) goal setting theory, (ii) recent evidence and explanation of perverse effects of “target game” like gaming or cheating and implications to measurement and the idea of verifiability, (iii) self-determination theory and links to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and (iv) complexity theory. The paper concludes that SMART goals are relevant approach, but only when used on the level of individuals and accompanied by proper feed-back and support mechanism. This is in clear contrast with the widespread (mis)use of this concept at the level of organizations.

The European Commission’s Financial Regulation requires in Art. 30 that “specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed objectives shall be set for all sectors of activity covered by the budget.” [1] It can be expected that EU member states will follow this example. But how smart would this really be?

This paper will explore the issue of widely used concept of SMART goals (the idea that for better performance purposes the objectives should be specific, measurable, agreed or achievable, realistic and time-related) by drawing on a variety of existing research results.

The scope of this paper is limited to the critical reflection of SMART. While it identifies conditions when this concept can actually be beneficial, it is not intended to provide just another ready-to-apply simple recipe for organizations or operational programmes dealing with some of the most complex societal problems. The reader looking for deeper understanding of organizational performance can also refer e.g. to Simons (1999)[2] or Seddon (2010)[3].

Benedict Wauters, ESF Agency Flanders and University of Antwerp, benedict.wauters@esf.vlaanderen.be

Wauters, B. (2015) „SMART or Not: Are Simple Management Recipes Useful to Improve Performance in a Complex World?“. Evaluační teorie a praxe 3(1): 61–90


[1] REGULATION (EU, EURATOM) No 966/2012 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THECOUNCIL of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002. Accessed from http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2012:298:
0001:0096:EN:PDF on 17/3/2015

[2] Simons, R. (1999). Performance Measurement and Control Systems for Implementing Strategy. Prentice Hall.

[3] Seddon, J. (2010). Systems Thinking in the Public Sector . Triarchy Press.


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