ENGLISCH/884: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (182) To be SMART (SB)


182 What is a "smart objective"?

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

... At my consultancy when we accept a job we set objectives by which we can measure our performance, and when we set objectives we insist that they are realistic and achievable. Now that we are under new management my British superior seems to set great store by being "smart". Being of rather plain looks, implementing the change process is neither realistic nor achievable for me. I wonder if there might be some kind of misunderstanding.

Kind regards

Tanja A. (Hamburg, Germany)


Dear Ms A.

Please don't worry. Many companies use objectives to motivate their employees, measuring their success but not their appearance. When objectives are set in business people often say that they should be "SMART" - this is an acronym, or rather an abbreviation made up from the first letter from other words. There are many acronyms or abbreviations in British English, which are pronounced as words (e.g. UNESCO, LASER) rather than as individual letters (e.g. BBC).

In this case, the "S" reminds you that your objective should be "specific" not vague.

The "M" tells you that your objective should be "measurable", so that you know whether you succeeded or failed.

The "A" stands for achievable and

"R" for realistic.

In other words you should try to do the impossible and finally

the "T" stands for time-bound or time limited. Meaning: If you set an objective you need to set a time by which it is done.


By the way, do you know the following acronyms, which are very popular in Britain and often used just for fun?

DINK = double income, no kids
(German meaning: doppeltes Einkommen, keine Kinder)


PLANT = pensioners looking after numerous toddlers (German: Rentner, die auf zahllose Kleinkinder aufpassen)

TULIP = two used leftover insolvent parents - (German: zwei gebrauchte, übriggebliebene zahlungsunfähige Eltern)

KIDBAG = kids in teens, bankrupt and grey
(German: Kinder im Teenager-Alter, bankrott und grau)

ESP = extra-sensory perception
(German: ASW = Außersinnliche Wahrnehmung)

You have probably heard the following expressions which are used in more serious circumstances and at work:

ISP = Internet Service Provider

ROM = read only memory (a long term memory, that can be looked at but never by changed. Like a book in the library, which you can only read).

RAM = random access memory
(a temporary memory, unlike ROM, which is permanent)

and these are just a few examples.

All this has begun with the most classic acronym: the "Laser" beam.

LASER stands for "Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation" but hardly anybody knows or uses this in detail. But everbody knows what a "laser gun" is.

I hope this will help you to perform the change into a "smart" member of you company.


Miranda Gobbledygook

11 January 2010