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The use of SMART in person centred care planning

Many registered managers of social care services will have heard of the concept of SMART Goals. A search of the internet however does not readily provide any evidence of its use in social care services.  However, there are examples of it use on the NICE website. I am coming from the standpoint that the lack of interest in the concept may be due to the fact that it has not received sufficient promotion. The purpose of my blog this week is to give readers the opportunity of learning a little more about the concept.

Some years ago, I compiled booklet for Skills for Care designed to enable staff to gain an understanding of outcomes. I drew on my knowledge of SMART in setting goals and achievable outcomes.

What is SMART?

SMART is a best practice framework for setting goals. A SMART goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. The acronym is intended to the person who is tasked with setting goals to clarify exactly what will be required for achieving success and to be able to share that clarification with others.

Everyone who wants to pursue a goal, knows that is important to provide a good description of this goal. Empty slogans do not bring satisfactory results. Making a concrete analysis in advance will help to achieve the goal.

“The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.” –Benjamin Mays

Using the SMART approach

At Bettal Quality Consultancy we believe that the SMART approach lends itself to person centred care planning. We have incorporated its use as part of our setting goals with a person and linked it to the achievement of outcomes in our person centred care plan.

A SMART goal gives direction to what a person wants to achieve. This could be a person who uses the service or a member of staff who is undertaking supervision. In this way it will give a sense of direction to everyone who wants to achieve the goal and it is highly likely that it can be really completed successfully. A well-formulated goal is easy to understand for everyone.

SMART Specific

A vague goal will not provide a real plan on how a goal will be achieved. For example, a person using a social care services wishes to take up a new activity (a new goal). It is not just a matter of recording the wishes of the person but:

  1. How will the goal be accomplished?

  2. Who will be are involved in supporting the person to achieve the goal?

  3. What resources will be needed?

  4. When is it going to happen?

  5. Why is this goal important to the person?

SMART Measurable

Each SMART goal has a starting point as well as a finishing point. The goal must be measurable and clearly state when the goal has been achieved.

SMART Achievable

The goal must be based on something the person wants to do and that is important to them and they believe achievable.

SMART Realistic (Relevant)

A realistic goal takes into account the practical situation and the work and resources involved. Goals should never be set without taking account of the work involved.

SMART Time-bound

It is especially important that short-term goals are formulated the SMART way. This is not always possible for long-term goals. Time-bound is actually about the time that is allocated to reach the goal. A SMART goal therefore has a clear starting time and a clear end date.


The SMART process has been around for some time and because it may not be fashionable at this time in social care that does not say that registered managers should not consider it. At Bettal we believe it provides a valuable framework in person centred care planning where it can give clear preparation for goal planning and evidence of achievement. It also involves the person in decision making about what they want to do and how they will be supported to achieve it. It replaces vagueness and ambiguity with clarity of purpose.

The SMART framework was coined by George Doran in the USA for a company he was assisting and published in 1981. I would like to see providers of social care services take a leaf out of the business notebook and use the framework in person centred care planning.

Albert Cook Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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