Forget SMART. Be Unreasonable!

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”

-George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists

SMART is an acronym for SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE, RELEVANT, TIME-BOUND which is “preached” as gospel in business school textbooks. Though Specific, Measurable, Relevant and Time-bound are essential, “Attainable” leaves the door open for excuses and under performance. SMART leads organizations and individuals to set small goals (e.g. 10% improvement in insert random KPI) and neglects to do things that can lead to 50% or 100% or more improvement. The key to rapid and meaningful improvement is being UNREASONABLE.


Being UNREASONABLE forces you and your team to think differently and discontinue the status quo. One of my favorite examples of  this is the setup reduction results obtained by Wiremold, the company who is the subject of James Womack’s book Lean Thinking. In each of the examples below setup time was previously measured in hours and ended up being measured in minutes with the smallest reduction being 88%! Setting large goals when it comes to operational excellence enables your organization to truly change the process vs. “just working harder”.

Setup Reduction

Source: Art Byrne, The Lean Turnaround

As Tim Ferriss puts it in his book The 4-Hour Workweek, setting unrealistic goals provides you with an “adrenaline infusion” which will motivate you to be successful. Ferriss also asserts that the level of competition is fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time and energy-consuming. So take the road less traveled and set unreasonable goals with these tips:

  1. Select goals that are relevant to you or strategically important
  2. Aim big! 50 to 100% improvement minimum
  3. Break up goals into defined steps with the maximum timeline of 6 months
  4. Do things that get you out of your comfort zone


If the set-up time reduction didn’t do it for you, check out other examples below:

  • Losing 20lbs. of fat in one month (Link)
  • Retire at the age of 30 (Link)


If you enjoyed this post and are curious to learn more about the books referenced check out Tim Ferriss’, The 4-Hour Workweek and Art Bryne’s, The Lean Turnaround using the links below.


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