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9 Mar 2015

SMART Goals versus DUMB Goals in the Workplace

What is going on in the SMART goals versus DUMB goals debate?

In the SMART goals versus DUMB goals debate we see goals as the end rather than as tools.

Setting goals is a key tool in running a good business. This sounds basic and common. It is not. We forget goal setting is just a tool. The debate of SMART goals versus DUMB goals shows this.

We see goals as ends. After all, goals are often ends we can reach. We do not see them for what they are. They are means to an end.

I looked at this because Dr Vin @drvinnytran asked for my thoughts on SMART goals versus DUMB goals in the workplace. He referred me to the DUMB goals as outlined by Brendon Burchard (see video below).

The Two Types of Goals

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Assignable
  • Realistic
  • Time-related

DUMB goals are:

  • Dream-driven
  • Uplifting
  • Method-friendly
  • Behavior-driven

There is much info on SMART goals. The idea has been around since the early 1960’s. Burchard’s DUMB goals are about achieving big, uplifting dreams that we can support with practices that translate into behaviors.

SMART Goals versus DUMB Goals

The fact we try to figure which is better shows we look at goals as ends not tools. It is hard to have more than one end. It is easy to have more than one tool.

Even their acronyms oppose each other. If we truly looked at goals as tools, this debate would not exist. It is because both are useful. We can use both at the same time.

Even Burchard falls into this trap. He starts by saying DUMB is better than SMART. At the end (11:30 in the video), he concedes this does not mean we do not have our little checklists and goals we need to do.

This brief comment gives us the key. DUMB is strategic. SMART is tactical. DUMB for a firm is very much a mission statement. It should be dream-driven and uplifting.

Method-friendly means operations. They are the processes (or practices as Burchard calls them) that we build to achieve that mission. Behavior-driven is where SMART comes in. Burchard calls them “triggers.” We can insert “SMART goals” every time he says that.

When it comes to SMART Goals versus DUMB Goals, they coexist. They are different tools. It is like debating whether a hammer is better than a screwdriver. Besides, neither is a substitute for great management. So what is the debate?


Brendon Burchard explains DUMB goals

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