Give It Up. Clear Objectives

Transitioning People Through Constant Change

In this series of posts I am exploring the Give It Up model in which we move away from the command and control of manager to the delegation and trust of true leaders. 


Clear objectives

Our leaders should set clear goals and objectives, and ensure that everyone understands what they will be held accountable for. Command and control management ensures that orders and work requirements are carried out by following strict plans and directions. We have to give this up.

Leadership is based on setting clear goals and objectives, delegating, providing autonomy and self-management, letting go of control, and trusting employees to do the right thing.

When employees know what has to be done and what is expected of them, it is much easier for them to work without constant supervision and interference. Employees make their own decisions about how to achieve the goals and objectives. 

To the moon and back

A great story about setting a clear objective that guided and motivated people to deliver on that objective was that set by President John F. Kennedy when he delivered his now famous ‘moon’ speech in 1962. 

In the speech delivered at Rice University in Houston, Kennedy said:

‘We choose to go to the moon! We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.’[i]

Moon copy.jpg

He set a goal and clear objective, which many thought was impossible and caused considerable controversy at the time. Yet on July 20 1969, that goal was achieved when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface.


SMART objectives will not be new to most of you. But it is worth a reminder to check your goals and objectives meet the SMART criteria.

SMART is an acronym for specific, measureable, assignable, realistic and time-related.

When President John F. Kennedy spoke before a joint session of United States Congress on May 25 1961, he said:

‘First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.’

That statement has to be one of the best examples of a SMART objective.

It was:

Specific: landing a man on the moon

Measureable: safely

Assignable: this nation

Realistic: nation should commit itself to achieving the goal

Time-related: before this decade is out

Note that there have been many iterations of the SMART acronym since George T. Doran first wrote about them in the November 1981 issue of the Management Review.For example, ‘assignable’ is often changed to ‘agreed’, ‘achievable’ or ‘ambitious’.

Kennedy’s goal was definitely the latter as he went on to say:

‘No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.’

Game score

Winning teams don’t do great things because they were told to. They have the power to make great things happen. They are free to experiment, create and innovate.

In subsequent posts in this series I will be exploring the additional elements of the Give It Up model.


Karen FerrisComment