HomeOpinion & AnalysisVillage Rhapsody: Why development projects should be SMART

Village Rhapsody: Why development projects should be SMART


Major public projects in Zimbabwe reveal a lack of planning and tracking.

Either there is no due diligence, or critical aspects of project management and execution are not followed.

An example is that of roads that have been rehabilitated, within months traces of pot holes become visible.

When some people hear the word “SMART” a lot of visual images come into their minds.

Some might picture a good looking, well dressed and fashionable human being.

However, in relation to development projects the term “SMART” is an acronym that establishes criteria for ideal goals and objectives in a project.

The acronym is in effect exhibiting intellectual knowledge in how projects can be implemented.

Goals and objectives should always be “SMART,” which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-related.

This set of criteria helps managers  to recognise their goals and create a structural guide to achieve them.

Projects should follow that simple acronym, which is a guide to help be more productive, while always keeping goals and objectives in mind.

Without goals there is no focus, and without focus the chance of successfully completing a project is slim.

Specific goals

Projects must be clear in what exactly they are intended to achieve, stating stakeholders that should be involved in achieving the goals.

Since 2012, China has built 1,000 boreholes for Zimbabwe with a specific goal in providing safe water for more than 400,000 people, accounting for 3% of the country’s population.

The boreholes are dominant in primary and secondary schools in rural areas.

Basically, projects must focus on the specifics to achieve the goal.

Measurable goals

Measurements are more important than estimates despite that it is commendable sometimes to work with estimates like in terms of figures.

But in order for a goal to be SMART, it must be measurable in order to track progress towards the main goal.

Project managers should know how to measure it.

That keeps project managers on track by motivating them to finish on time.

So, in order to be successful, one needs to regularly monitor and assess the progress.

Basically, project managers must set up metrics to measure the progress when implementing development projects.

Above all, project milestones can help break up to conduct an Ad-hoc evaluation if a project extends over some months.

Achievable goals

Usually after a problem has been identified at both community and national projects are mainly done to address a certain problem or need.

The government and private organisations with some individuals can volunteer to implement a project to address such needs.

The US$85 million loan deal for the Mbudzi flyover that was recently sealed triggered social media debate  with some people saying it might be difficult to achieve due to rampant corruption in Zimbabwe.

The main goal of the project is to reduce traffic in the city of Harare.

However, there is no point in measuring a goal that is impossible to achieve.

Another way to determine a SMART goal is by evaluating if the defined goal is realistic or not.

Project managers must bear in mind that projects cannot be successfully achieved by only Gant charts; they must be able to assess the current environment and determine whether or not the project goal is achievable.

It is important to evaluate available resources well, and assess if the goal can be achievable considering the current environment in the country.

Relevant goals

It feels good to be relevant to whatever is being done, be it in development projects or just in society generally, relevance is key.

After certain goals are defined, there is a need to assess how it is measurable and achievable to picture its relevance.

A SMART goal has to be relevant not only to the project managers but to all stakeholders including the beneficiaries.

Even if the inputs are enough to implement a project, it must be aligned with other relevant goals because success requires the support and assistance from everyone linked to the project goals.

Therefore, projects must be relevant to all other parts and the overall strategy of the organisation.

This can answer questions such as, is the goal worthwhile?

Is it the right time to implement this project? Does it match other needs apart from the main goal?

Time-related goals

In most cases, some departments might not function independently in which they need assistance from various project departments and this is time consuming.

A SMART goal should be always time-related because it is difficult to achieve goals without deadlines.

A deadline serves as a great motivator and can provide context for you to recognize the various tasks necessary to reach that goal as per scheduled time.

However, time is sometimes hard to manage and many projects have been executed earlier or after the deadline.

Therefore, giving the goal time constraints helps projects to stay on track and without a time frame goals are difficult to achieve.

The great thing about using SMART as a method to define your project goals is that it’s not a tedious exercise.

It can be fun, and it is always going to leave you with greater insights into your goals.

  • Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his personal capacity. For feedback email: evanngoe@gmail.com or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda19

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