SMARTIE Acronym Builds Inclusion and Equity into Goal-Setting Framework

You already know about using the SMART acronym as a guide for setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. But adding two more letters can transform goals from equity-neutral to those that bake inclusion and equity into the foundation of goal and strategy formation. That’s going from SMART to SMARTIE.
Developed by The Management Center, an organization that helps social justice leaders build and run high-performance organizations, the SMARTIE approach to goal setting helps center Inclusion and Equity as core values to guide your work, helping to increase your impact for a larger cross-section of people. “Goals are a concrete way to drive results, but without an explicit equity and inclusion component, goals won’t produce better outcomes for marginalized communities, address disparities, or create belonging,” the Center says.
Why SMARTIE goals matter
When you create goals with the ideas of inclusion and equity as critical components, you engage people who are often excluded from decision making and power sharing to drive meaningful participation while addressing systemic injustice and oppression. SMARTIE goals can be crafted at the 50,000-foot level of vision through to operational strategies and tactics. They help drive new and different conversations, focus attention and resources in new ways and drive different outcomes due to their expanded focus.
Speaking to a gathering sponsored by The Giving Institute, Michelle Bibbs, Associate Senior Consultant for nonprofit consultants, the Alford Group, clarifies that inclusion and equity are at the core of SMARTIE goals, and not an afterthought. “Let’s be clear, SMARTIE is not about tokenism; the difference is power,” she explained. Rather than, for example, creating quotas for the number of new hires that must be people of color, the idea is to ensure diverse people have a genuine opportunity to influence the work in a meaningful way. “SMARTIE goals embrace the idea of power with others and power within when marginalized people and communities, particularly those impacted by a goal, are included in a way that shares power, shrinks disparity and leads to more equitable outcomes,” she said.
Embedding inclusion and equity
The Management Center provides an online goal-setting worksheet with questions to prompt self-reflection or discussion with your boss or team. They include:
Does this goal or its tactics mitigate potential inequalities in the outcomes and/or process?
Does it advance equity and inclusion in the outcomes and/or process?
            Did I get input from people who will be impacted by the process or outcomes?
They also offer these tips for moving from “equity-neutral goals to goals with equity and inclusion considerations baked in.”
  • Mind the “how.” Because many goals will not, on the face of them, appear directly related to inclusion and equity, you will need to look specifically and in detail at how the effort might advance or impede inclusion and equity, and how any potential negative impacts can be ameliorated.
For example, a SMART Goal might involve an overhaul of a restaurant group’s dinner menus. A SMARTIE goal might add to that same initiative having decision makers involved who represent diverse cultures and seeking input from diverse customers, or even featuring favorite foods or recipes that better reflect a wide range of customer preferences.
A SMART goal might be to expand the sales team by 10% over the next year, and a SMARTIE goal might include seeking out more diverse networks where you can advertise the positions and a goal to have a certain percentage of candidates of color or from diverse backgrounds in the interview pool.
  • Check for unintentional disparate impact. The Management Center suggests exploring early on how a goal might impact different communities in different ways based on identity or power. Because it’s often not possible to anticipate all unintended consequences, they advocate building in explicit methods for checking along the way for such impact as you progress toward a goal. They provide the example of following up a goal to increase underrepresented people among new hires with a date to check back to ensure those team members are not carrying an unequal share of the work or overly represented in roles with less robust opportunities for advancement.
  • Make your metrics matter. What often distinguishes tokenism from inclusion is power. When formerly underrepresented people are sought out for their input and participation, you also need to ensure power is shared so that moving closer to the goal will contribute to building power among those team members and shrink disparities.
By making inclusion and equity a foundational part of individual, department and organization goals, every step forward becomes an opportunity to shrink disparities among underrepresented people and groups and to foster a culture of real belonging.

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