National Audit Office > Successful Commissioning Toolkit > Designing services > SMART outcomes

SMART outcomes

You must express your outcomes in ‘Smart’ terms. ‘Smart’ is an acronym that you may be more familiar with in terms of setting targets. We use it here to remind you to make your outcomes:

  • Specific.  The way you express your outcome must target the issue you are concerned with precisely. For example, if you are concerned with the health of a particular section of society, make that clear in the way you write the outcome.
  • Measurable.  What gets measured gets managed. You must therefore express your outcome in a measurable form. This could be numerical (for example, a percentage improvement in performance) or in another measurable form (such as a ‘yes-or-no’ check; for example, was the flood stopped before it could damage the museum collection?). Some outcomes are harder to measure (especially so-called ‘soft outcomes’) but not impossible. [Note]. And some may take longer to show themselves. For example, increasing a teenager’s confidence (hard to measure) may increase their likelihood of employment (but not until they leave school).
  • Achievable.  You need to set an outcome that will ‘stretch’ the provider. That contributes to getting the best outcome for your money. But you must not set the outcome so far beyond the provider’s capabilities that the outcome demotivates the provider’s staff and may have a ‘rebound’ adverse effect on performance instead.
  • Realistic. You need to set outcomes that are within providers’ reach. For example, if you wish to set outcomes for the wellbeing of older people, it is reasonable to assign an outcome for their health to a health care provider.  But it would be unreasonable to assign to the health provider an outcome for the quality of social housing. You might assign that to the housing association.
  • Timebound.  You must make clear by when the objective is to be achieved.

Notes

Note: For example, New Philanthropy Capital (a research charity) has developed a questionnaire to measure seven aspects of children’s subjective well-being including self esteem, resilience and relationships – http://www.thinknpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/On-the-bright-side.pdf

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