Developing SMARTER processes

Procedures are an integral part of business

The management of an organization depends for a significant part on established procedures which govern the way in which the organization confronts its challenges. Developing and writing procedures often comes as a afterthought, with either the quality department of a junior collaborator being charged with writing these procedures.

However, these procedures will govern how processes are executed in the organization for a long time to come, often long after the initial process designers have left. So it pays to make these procedures as SMART as possible. More SMART than SMART = SMARTER.

S stands for ‘Specific’

Duncan Haughey highlights that the established goals of a certain procedure need to be specific. They need to be well defined and clear to anyone that has a basic knowledge of the process which is being decribed. Hence, a procedure should not be considered SMARTER unless it is shown to have a clearly defined purpose which is understood by anyone implicated by that specific procedure.

Think about it. This makes sense. After all, if there is no purpose to the procedure, why are you executing it?

M stands for ‘Measurable’

A goal, a purpose needs to be measured, in order to assess where we are in the executing of our activities with respect to the specific goal set. We start from the premise that a procedure serves a specific purpose, as per our first point. However, how will we ever know whether or not the procedure achieves its intended target if there are no measurement elements provided? In order to be SMARTER, a procedure needs to contain adequate provisions for data collection which allows measurement of both its degree of implementation and its effect.

A stands for ‘Agreed upon’

Process goals are highly dependent on the buy-in which exists regarding the objective of the process. Introducing a process which is not at least discussed with those impacted by it and ideally agreed upon by them, will not easily be complied with. Compliance is a function of acceptance of the relevance of the process. A SMARTER process is a process which is carried by its constituency.

R stands for ‘Realistic’

If a process goal is unattainable, it is not realistic. I’ve encountered many processes or procedures which had been written in an ivory tower, not taking in account the situation on the ground. An attainable, achievable and adapted set of goals or purposes, taking in account the actual reality, is a cornerstone of SMARTER processes.

T stands for ‘Time Bound’

If a goal is specific, measurable, agreed upon and realistic, it can be time bound. A process can be bound in time. We tend to introduce processes without any restrictions on how long they will stay in force. A SMARTER process is a process which is bound in time, allowing for the achievement of its related objective after which it should extinguish.

This covers my interpretation of the SMART process. But wait, aren’t we talking about SMARTER processes? Indeed, some management literature introduces the SMARTER goals.

E stands for ‘Ethical’

Any process that is SMARTER needs to make sure that it in itself is ethical. This however is not enough. It also needs to ensure that it avoids inducing unethical behavior. This aligns with the “agreed upon” aim for SMARTER processes. The less collaborators are supporting a process, the more they will aim to avoid following it … which can lead to borderline ethical or even unethical behavior.

R stands for ‘Relevant’

Any author of a process needs to ask the question whether that specific process is the most relevant way of reaching the intended objective. If not, the process cannot be considered SMARTER.

I am convinced that the application of the SMARTER evaluation criterium on a process will result in processes more adapted to the reality of human beings.