Are SMART goals a wise choice for economic developers?

Are SMART goals a wise choice for economic developers?


Strategic planning, if taken seriously, is difficult. It requires forthright engagement, clear-eyed analysis, and a firm commitment among participants to hold each other accountable. And as with any exercise involving forecasting, it also necessitates some degree of risk tolerance. Economic developers, like CEOs or politicians, do not control the economy. Yet they must accept the fact that they will be held accountable for meeting goals to improve it.

How, then, to create those goals? What should economic developers keep in mind, as they commit to “moving the needle” on jobs, private investment, and other outcomes? Are there special considerations for economic developers tasked with the comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS) required by the Economic Development Administration (EDA)?

I’ve spent a large portion of my career mulling over these issues, and their applications in economic development and performance management, as well as the potential ramifications for the people working in those fields.

Thanks to the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO), the largest membership group of EDA-funded organizations, for the opportunity to write down what I think I’ve learned so far.

Here’s a link to the issue brief:

SMART Goals: ​A Winning Formula for Economic Development Districts

Make sure to check out the other papers in the series, too. I know most of the authors through NADO or my time in Washington DC. They are among the best in the field and always have thoughtful, and thought-provoking, things to say on these topics. I learn something every time I see them.

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