Step 2: Identifying Measurable Objectives

"Management by objectives works if you first think through your objectives.
Ninety percent of the time you haven’t."
Peter Drucker (1909-2005)
American management consultant

Why are measurable objectives important?

Measurable objectives play a critical role in evaluating performance, reducing uncertainty, and improving MSP over time. Because management objectives are used to guide decisions in managing human activities in marine areas, they should be more specific than broad brush statements or overall management purposes. For example, generic statements such as “maintain marine biodiversity” or “improve water quality” are general statements (goals) about why management has been undertaken, not measurable objectives that can help guide decision-making.

Objectives are derived from goals. Goals can have more than one objective. For example, a goal of maintaining biodiversity could have objectives related to both species and habitats.

Task 1: Identify Measurable Objectives in the Spatial Management Plan

What are the characteristics of SMART objectives?

Some of the characteristics of SMART objectives include:

  • Specific: objectives should be concrete, detailed, focused, and well defined in terms of defining desirable outcomes of the MSP process (have you specified what you want to achieve?);

  • Measurable: objectives should allow measurement of the outcomes and progress toward their achievement—preferably in quantitative terms (can you measure what you want to achieve?);

  • Achievable: objectives should be attainable within a reasonable amount of effort and resources (are the resources required to achieve the objective available?);

  • Relevant or Realistic: objectives should lead to a desired goal, either on its own or in combination with other objectives; and,

  • Time-bound: objectives should indicate a start and finish date in relation to what is to be accomplished (when do you want to achieve the specific objective or objectives?)

No single way exists to write a SMART objective. It will depend on the nature of the objective and its intended use. The real test is to compare the objective statement against the SMART criteria you have chosen to use and answer the simple question: Does the objective statement check most if not all of the criteria?

Writing SMART Objectives

(These ideas may seem simple, but often it’s the simple things that get lost or overlooked)

Make sure you sort out the differences between goals and objectives; specify as many objectives as you think you will need to meet each goal;

  • You don’t have to follow the SMART order; usually it will work best to begin with “Measurable” (how can you measure what you want to achieve?). “Measurable” is the most important consideration. What evidence will you use to define success?

  • Achievable is linked to measurable. There’s no point in defining an outcome you know you can’t realize, or one where you can’t tell if or when you’ve finished it. How can you decide if it’s achievable? Do you have the necessary resources to get it done? These are important questions;

  • The devil is in the details. Does everyone involved understand your objectives? Are they free of jargon? Have you defined your terms? Have you used appropriate language?

  • Timely means setting deadlines. You must have deadlines or your objectives will not be measurable.

Specifying SMART objectives is a difficult task. But it will be worth it. You will actually know you have accomplished something.

Adapted from: Andrew Bell
“Ten Steps to SMART Objectives”

Video: John Weber on establishing goals, objectives, and indicators in the Northeast marine region (USA)

  • In New England (USA) the MSP process has defined its goals and objectives
  • This has involved a rigorous public process
  • Evaluation can track the success of a marine plan and identify how it can be improved
  • The progress of the MSP process itself should be tracked
  • Public comments should be part of the evaluation process
  • The public can answer “How are we doing? “What can we do better?”
  • We are trying to identify how we can evaluate the plan as we develop it
  • We will start tracking indicators as soon as the plan is implemented

What are some examples of SMART objectives?

Examples of SMART objectives include:

  • Achieve 20% of the overall energy demand in the marine region from offshore renewable sources by 2020;
  • Achieve by 2010 a minimum 15% reduction in the total quantity of oil in produced water from oil and gas operations discharged into the marine region compared to the year 2000;
  • Protect 90% of essential habitat for diving birds by 2018;
  • Implement a representative network of marine protected areas by 2012; and,
  • Reduce the time required to make decisions on marine construction permits by 50% by 2015.

Are there examples of SMART objectives being used in MSP practice?

Well-specified and measurable objectives, i.e., SMART, are few and far between in international MSP practice. However, a few examples exist. Scotland, for example, has several SMART objectives for aquaculture in its draft marine plan:

  • By 2020, increase the sustainable production of marine finfish at a rate of 4% per year to achieve a 50% increase in current production;
  • By 2020, increase the sustainable freshwater production of juvenile salmon and trout by 50%; and,
  • By 2020, increase the sustainable production of shellfish, mussels especially, by at least 100%.

The United Kingdom is legally committed to delivering 15% of its energy demand from renewable sources by 2020. Its Climate Change Act requires the UK to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% below 1990 levels, by 2050, despite an increase in electricity demand of between 30-100% by 2050.

Under Germany’s Renewable Energy Law, by 2020, 10,000 megawatts (the output of 10 nuclear power plants) will be connected to the grid and the share of renewable energies in the German electricity mix will move from 12% to 20%. Germany has identified 20 areas in the North and Baltic seas for the construction of wind farms to achieve this objective.

To see how the Puget Sound (USA) Partnership has adopted “ecosystem recovery targets” that are also SMART objectives, click here.

Video: Charles Ehler on differences between goals and objectives

  • A goal is a general or aspirational statement of what you want to achieve
  • An objective is more specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound
  • With measurable objectives you can plan your management actions very specifically

Go back to Step 1: Preparing to Evaluate or continue reading Step 3: Identifying Marine Spatial Management Actions