Setting objectives

Why set objectives?

The idea of ‘objectives’ isn’t a new one: after all, many of us often set ourselves objectives in our personal lives. Within the School, objectives (or performance standards as they are sometimes called) are one of the key components of the Career Development Review scheme (CDR).

Objectives are a key part of making a role productive and meaningful, including for the individual in that role. In particular:

  • They help to clarify expectations and provide a basis for tracking progress
  • They’re really helpful for providing focus to a reviewee’s learning and development, both personal and professional
  • They’re a useful tool for managers to identify what is being done, by whom, by when

What's the benefit of setting objectives/standards to me?  

Remember that regardless of whether it is standards or objectives, setting goals for your year ahead will help you and your team to:

  • Be clear about what is required – the outcomes, results or changes and thus stay on track.
  • Prioritise activities and workloads by focussing on the most important or significant goals before others.
  • Determine the resources required to complete a task.
  • Assess options and choices that arise as a task or project gets underway.
  • Measure success.
  • Gain a sense of achievement and fulfilment. 

How to set objectives

When setting objectives, you will want to consider:

  • The individual's job description
  • Your department’s plans
  • LSE 2030

Individual staff members are encouraged to identify their own objectives and agree them with their manager as part of the CDR process. This means that, whilst the following guidance takes you through how you set objectives as a manager, you should always make sure that the final version of the objectives is discussed and agreed together.


Set SMART objectives

SMART is a useful acronym which describes the different elements required for useful objectives. SMART stands for:






In terms of how to create objectives that are SMART, the video below will give you an overview of what SMART objectives look like. 

Setting SMART goals and objectives Setting SMART goals and objectives
Click on the video above to find out more about SMART goals and objectives and how to set them. Captions are enabled.

When setting SMART objectives, it’s very important to be clear about what needs to be achieved. The following steps will take you through how to do this.


Step one

SMART objectives can be set in a number of different ways. One method is to start by identifying what needs to be done to achieve the objectives of the department and the team for the coming year.

If you aren’t sure what the department’s objectives or priorities are, now is the time to find out! For example: you may be a manager in a professional services area and you are looking at ways to improve the student experience as one of your objectives or priorities. What do you need the staff you manage to achieve? Is it the introduction of new processes/procedures in order to improve the service given to either students directly or academic departments? Is it maintaining a certain (high) level of service to students/staff over a period of time?

When setting SMART objectives, wherever you are within the organisation and whatever your role, you will need to have as much clarity as possible about what you want or need to achieve. You should build individual objectives around your area/team objectives or priorities are for the coming year. If you don’t know what they are then you will need to find out!


Step two

Once you’ve identified what needs to be achieved you then apply the SMART criteria. For example, SMART objectives for an administrator might look like this.

Specific: Reduce the amount of time it takes to respond to requests for information from academic departments. What reduction are you aiming for? What do you mean by ‘respond to’? Do you really mean all requests from academic departments for information or just a particular area?

Measurable: What measures are you going to use? How will you know when the objective has been achieved? In the example of an administrator given above, a measurable objective might be: “Ensure that all requests for information from academic departments are addressed within three working days by October 2021”.

Achievable: This is where you need to consider the context in which you’re setting the objective(s), especially your capacity – this is something that they will be able to do? In this context, ‘capacity’ means both your abilities in the role and the resources available to you. It may be that you will benefit from extra support (such additional training/development) in order to achieve the objective(s).

Relevant: Double check that what you are crafting reflects both what is needed for the department and fits with the expectations of the individual as described in the job summary / job description.

Time-bound: Is there a timeframe for the objective(s), i.e. by when does the work need to be completed? When will it be measured and will the information be available then?

Step three

Look at the statement(s) that you have written in step one and apply the SMART criteria to them. The approach described in steps one and two means that you will go back to your original statement several times and will end up re-writing it possibly more than once. Only stop re-writing the objective once both you and your line manager are happy that you both understand what is written and what it means.


One simple thing

Alongside objectives, you can also  identify “One simple thing”. This is an action/activity that is easy to undertake and can be done regularly. You can agree to do “One simple thing” for a range of areas, including:

  • Creating an inclusive environment for colleagues

  • Supporting your own and colleagues’ wellbeing

  • Developing yourself and your career

Hints and tips

  • Focus on what you need to achieve – avoid writing objectives that describe what is going to be done.
  • Keep objectives under review throughout the year – reflect as relevant at one-to-ones.
  • Objectives should reflect the level and range of responsibilities that an individual has.
  • Objectives can be challenging and aim to achieve positive outcomes.
  • A useful objective is one which describes to everyone who might read the objective what is expected.

What if my role has standards rather than objectives? 

Standards are generally more relevant for roles where there are routine tasks and/or repeated tasks and ongoing performance criteria to be met time and again. These are usually easily measurable in terms of has the standard been met or not.

Objectives are generally more for roles where there is less routine and fewer repeated teaks and where the work likely has a strategic link or focus. Objectives may be much harder to measure progress against, especially if badly stated. 

The process for setting standards is the same as that for setting objectives, and for most standards, you can still make them SMART by focusing on exactly what you are doing, how and by when.

If you are not sure about standards or objectives for your role, please do talk to your line manager.

We hope this page helps get you ready for a really successful year ahead, but if you have specific questions about objective setting, contact us at Organisational Learning at .