Summary of With Goals, FAST Beats SMART

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Goals that are SMART (“specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound”) aren’t, in fact, the most intelligent choice for your firm – so say strategy consultant Charles Sull and managment lecturer Donald Sull in this research-laden MIT Sloan Management Review article. For best results, the Sulls urge, set goals that are FAST: “frequently discussed, ambitious, specific and transparent.” 

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why SMART (“specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound”) goals can subvert your company’s strategy; and 
  • How to adjust four aspects of your goal-setting to optimize performance.

About the Authors

Donald Sull is a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Charles Sull is a partner at the consultancy Charles Thames Strategy Partners.



Many managers swear by goals that are SMART (“specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound”). Yet, this approach can hamper a firm’s strategy. When rewards are contingent on achieving every goal, goal-setters tend to aim low, and keeping goals private blinds employees to others’ endeavors. Instead, goals should be FAST:

  • “Frequently discussed”– Don’t set goals and then forget about them until performance reviews. Goals should shape daily choices and actions, such as prioritizing time and using resources. Some firms set goals quarterly, allowing more chances to change direction. Weekly executive meetings or regular...

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