DUMB Goals Trump SMART Goals

September 24, 2010

A little boy asks three bricklayers who are working side-by-side what they are doing.

The first bricklayer says, “I’m putting one brick on top of another. Isn’t that obvious?”

The second says, “I’m building a wall for the west side of a church.”

The third says, “I’m creating a cathedral. It will stand for centuries and inspire people to do great deeds.”

(From the book, The Art of Engagement by Jim Haudan)

There are goals, and then there are GOALS. Exciting goals are about engaging peoples’ emotions. Which bricklayer above was truly excited and engaged?

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras coined the term BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal in their book, Built to Last. A BHAG is a long-term goal that is big, bold, powerful and exciting. And people want to be inspired, to be a part of some greater purpose. They want what they do to have meaning.

How much inspiration, purpose, meaning, and excitement are contained in the average employees SMART goals? Not much, I’ll wager. While most goals undoubtedly fit the definition of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound, I’ll bet that many find their goals to be Stale, Monotonous, Annoying, Rational, and Transitory – reasonable, yes, but long on perspiration and short on inspiration.

Roger Bauer, CEO of SMB Consulting, Inc, has a fun post: SMART Goals are out DUMB Goals are in. But just what are DUMB goals?

DUMB goals unleash the entrepreneurial spirit.

DUMB stands for Dreamy, Unrealistic, Motivating and Bold.

Dreamy goals repeatedly wake you up at night wondering if something is possible with an effort that is truly remarkable.

Unrealistic goals are the ones traditionalists warn against and believe aren’t obtainable by anyone.

Motivating goals are those that make someone wake up each morning ready to take on the day versus figuring out a way to muddle through it looking busy even though time is being wasted.

Bold is charting a course competitors don’t dare take because the fear of failure or success is too daunting.



If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. – Antoine de Saint Exupéry



BHAG and DUMB goals are all about having a mission and a purpose. Consider these goals from some well-known companies:

Microsoft: A computer on every desk and in every home.

Google: Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Amazon: Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.

Twitter: To become "the pulse of the planet."

5 comments

Anonymous said...

My favourite goal quote is: "a goal without a plan is just a dream."~ Larry Elder. Here is a free simple facebook app that uses your friends as Goal Buddies to help monitor your SMART Goals. http://www.facebook.com/SMARTGoals.Me Just like at the gym when you have someone watching you work harder hopefully with someone watching your goals you’re more likely to achieve it.

September 26, 2010 at 12:24 AM
Dave Moran said...

I like the quote! And thanks for the SMART Goals link.

September 26, 2010 at 1:59 PM
Anonymous said...

Really nice article. I needed this :)

February 15, 2012 at 2:08 AM

Thank you for the read. Honestly you covered the topic and broadly examined all areas. If i was to write this i would have done a few things differently grademiners
myself but you have definitely inspired me to get into the world of blogging. Thanks heaps for the post i really appreciate it. Have a good day and keep blogging

October 30, 2016 at 5:58 PM

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