Implementation Month: SMART Goals

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This January Rural Resurrection is celebrating the third annual National Implementation Month! So let the festivities begin! 

Implementation MonthWhen implementing community plans it is important to know exactly what you want to accomplish. Unfortunately, many comprehensive plans, park plans, etc. are often somewhat vague in their goals and actions. To an extent, this is intentional. You want some flexibility in your goals and actions of these plans to allow the various projects that could act as implementation actions over the years. However, sometimes you need goals that are clear and concise regarding how to conduct an implementation action. Sometimes you need SMART goals.

According to Wikipedia, SMART Goals are:

S.M.A.R.T. is a mnemonic acronym, giving criteria to guide in the setting of goals and objectives that are assumed to give better results, for example in project management, employee performance management and personal development.

The different letters of “SMART” represent five different aspects of viable SMART goals; specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Creating SMART goals tend to increase the success of the project or action as there is a clear understanding of what is expected.

Hence, to get started on the implementation of one of your community’s plans, it is a good idea to start with creating SMART goals for a specific project or action. This will take a more summary or all-inclusive goal or action and turn it into something more implementable.


This is the “Who”, “What”, “When”, “Where”, and “Why”. The first step in the process is the most basic, but it is quite critical. You need to decide who will need to be involved to make this goal a success. Your team will also be getting into detail on what you’re trying to accomplish. The “When” is mostly handled in the “Time-Bound” section below, but now is the time to set a general overall timeframe. Although “Where” doesn’t apply to all goals, but if it has a location component, this is when you lay it out. Finally, clarify the “Why”  you are doing this. Don’t stop at just one reason either.

For instance, the goal may be to add a dog park within the community. Public Works representatives would likely be involved, along with possibly the City Clerk if grants might be involved. But what size of dog park? What amenities are necessary to make a good dog park? How long will it take to construct the dog park and where would be the best place to put it? Finally, how will a dog park benefit the community?


It is important to have measurable goals, otherwise, you cannot gauge progress to successful completion of the goal. One of the phases of a streetscape plan may be the installation of planters in the pedestrian areas along the street. To make that measurable, give it a number “Installation of 10 planters on Main Street from 1st to 3rd Avenue.”


This is the reality check of the SMART goals. Can you get it done, especially in the timeframe that expected? Many of us have a large number of tasks on our hands already. Is there enough time to get this additional goal done? Do you have the training, the tools, and the skills necessary to achieve the goal?

Many states have an “Economic Development Certified Community” status or similar designations that communities can apply for. Many times the applications require the community to have a housing study or housing action plan. But if your community hasn’t prepared such a plan, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to apply for the certification within the given timeframe of your goal.


Relevance considers the broader scheme of what you’re trying to accomplish. Going back to the dog park example. It may relate to an overall goal of providing additional recreational amenities to residents or utilizing an underutilized area of the community. It may be seen as providing not just a new service to the residents and an additional draw to potential residents looking to relocate to the community.

Time Bound

This is where you get into the details of the time expectations for the project. Is your general timeline realistic? Will the work on the other goals you are trying to accomplish have an impact on this goal? Will additional training or equipment be needed that could impact the timeline? Get as detailed as possible to ensure there are no hiccups….ok….not many hiccups along the way. Providing detail on the timeline provides clarity to those involved as to what is expected of them at certain points along the timeline.

At first, creating SMART goals out of your plans may seem a little daunting. But after completing the exercise a few times, the process goes much faster, and the quicker you can get to the actual implementation work. You’ll find that with SMART goals there is less confusion and more clarity as to expectations. This in turn leads to more success.

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