Objective: Encourage the development of objectives, which will provide a good basis for project development and later evaluation.

Objective setting is fundamental for the development of a strategy, and is more difficult than it appears. Allow half a day for a participative exercise.

To refine objectives and make them measurable

The planning team is responsible. This is an activity where the development of the smart objectives is best done by a planning team, but the result should be discussed and agreed with a wider representative group.

  1. The planning team
  2. The wider participatory group

SMART stands for five important qualities of objectives relating to urban development. Objectives should be:

Specific in terms of place.

Measurable in terms of what is to be achieved (not how to achieve it).

Acceptable. This means that an objective should be accepted by key stakeholders. The process to set and agree the objective should be participatory to maximize acceptance (note some sources use “Achievable” but that is very similar to “realistic”).

Realistic. It should be possible to reach the objective with regard to resources including finance and organizational capacity.

Time bound. It is critical that objectives are related to a meaningful time frame. The time frame should itself be linked to political and social realities as well as to physical development aspects


The process to develop SMART objectives goes through the following steps:

Step 1: The starting point of this tool is the initial or draft objective developed though another tool. Problem Tree Analysis is recommended for this, but is not the only means. Problem Tree Analysis enables core problems to be identified. These can be turned into objectives. For example, a problem identified as “no access to basic infrastructure in a certain area” could be turned into the broad objective “ensure access to basic infrastructure in a certain area”.

In addition, it is important to look at objectives which may be developed from the visioning process and SWOT analysis.

Step 2: Make each objective specific by adapting it so that it answers the four questions linked to SMART. This can be done by individual participants with suggestions written on cards or sheets of paper. If using cards or paper – pin or stick on a wall / whiteboard/flip chart.

Step 3:  Discuss and refine each objective until:

  1. It meets the SMART criteria
  2. Group members agree on the objective and its formulation


  1. It is easy to remember
  2. Helps create a sound foundation to strategy development


  1. Although it looks simple it is difficult to do well (applies to all objective setting).
  2.  SMART represents only a limited selection of questions about the quality of an objective.  Other lists are more thorough.

Problem tree analysis is a useful starting point.

SWOT analysis identifies issues which can be reformulated into objectives.

Visioning tools provide a wide framework.

The version of SMART described here is developed for IHS.

The attached table is an adaptation of material in Generally accessible documents:

UNCHS (1991) Guide for managing change for urban managers and trainers, (Training materials series) Nairobi, United Nations Centre for Human Settlements.