Your organization needs to get SMART about analytics
POSTED : July 14, 2016
BY : David Rosenstock

SMART is a mnemonic to guide people or organizations when they set objectives.  This Key Performance Indicator (KPI) approach is especially beneficial for project management, staff performance management, and personal development.  The approach also comes in handy when determining, applying and learning from your data through analytics.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Each of these categories merits closer examination and a more precise definition.

Specific: This first term stresses the need for a specific goal over and against a more general one. This means the goal is clear and unambiguous; without vagaries and platitudes. To make goals specific, they must tell a team exactly what is expected, why is it important, who’s involved, where is it going to happen and which attributes are important.

A specific goal will usually answer the five “W” questions:

  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
  • Who: Who is involved?
  • Where: Identify a location.
  • Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

Measurable: This second term stresses the need for concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal. The thought behind this is that if a goal is not measurable, it is not possible to know whether a team is making progress toward successful completion. Measuring progress is supposed to help a team stay on track, reach its target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs it on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal.

A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?

Attainable: This third term stresses the importance of goals that are realistic and attainable. While an attainable goal may stretch a team in order to achieve it, the goal is not extreme. That is, the goals are neither out of reach nor below standard performance, as these may be considered meaningless. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. The theory states that an attainable goal may cause goal-setters to identify previously overlooked opportunities to bring themselves closer to the achievement of their goals.

An attainable goal will usually answer the question:

  • How: How will the goal be accomplished?

Relevant: This fourth term stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter. A bank manager’s goal to “Make 50 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by 2:00pm” may be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Time-Bound, but lacks Relevance. Many times you will need support to accomplish a goal: resources, a champion voice, someone to knock down obstacles. Goals that are relevant to your boss, your team, your organization will receive that needed support.  Relevant goals (when met) drive the team, department, and organization forward. A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered a relevant goal.

A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this match our other efforts/needs?
  • Are you the right person?
  • Is this acceptable for correction?

Timely: This fifth term stresses the importance of grounding goals within a time frame, giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps a team focus their efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date. This part of the S.M.A.R.T. goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in an organization. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.

A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:

  • When?
  • What can I do 6 months from now?
  • What can I do 6 weeks from now?
  • What can I do today?

Analytics has become a golden child within the healthcare industry.  Conferences spring up almost overnight to discuss “Healthcare Big Data” and “Predictive Models.”  Expensive seminars are held to proclaim the value of patient and provider behavior modification through analytics.  The public speaking tour is littered with cost containment and utilization management gurus, using analytics as the basis for their expertise.  Yet most healthcare organizations’ data quality and completeness is so suspect that analytics run against it will paint a false story, at best!

Apply the SMART method that we have just discussed in detail to your analytics approach and you will be assured of a successful outcome:

  • Specific: Decide exactly what you want to analyze and what benefits will be derived. You cannot analyze and act upon the vast universe of data that can be captured.
  • Measurable: Assure the highest data quality, know your sources, and work on your sickest populations and individuals first.
  • Achievable: You cannot predict the future if you do not understand the present. Assure your measures are well-defined, your data is trustworthy, and your results are actionable.
  • Realistic: Your analytics approach has to recognize what can be surfaced and what can be acted upon. Information is just that, unless you have the resources to act upon it.
  • Timely: A phased approach always works best. Perform your population health analysis to determine what population groups need the most attention; then dig into the gaps in care within individuals in that group to transform information into knowledge through action

Learn how to predict hospital readmission using artificial intelligence.

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