Many make a resolution at the beginning of each year to somehow better themselves. Exercise more, eat less, stop smoking or make more time for friends and family, just to name a few. Most times those resolutions don’t last much through the first day, week or maybe month. There are many reasons why they don’t last, but one that seems to be said the most often is that there weren’t goals and benchmarks along the way.

We all have goals in our production plans each year, yield goals mainly, but maybe also agronomic goals. Things like planting date, conditions, timeliness of weed control to maintain clean fields, and scouting are just a few examples. These may look just like resolutions and if left at face value, you would be right. What makes goals more than a resolution is the thought and planning behind the goals. SMART Goals can take a resolution to the next level.

What in the world is a SMART Goal?
SMART–Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely–is an acronym to help someone develop a goal. This process was developed almost 40 years ago by a business consultant, George T. Doran. It is widely used today in corporations across the U.S. and globe. Here’s the nitty gritty and how you can use this to take your operation to the next level.

S – Specific
When thinking specific, consider the 5 Ws of who, what, when, where and why. What agronomic difference do I want to try this year? Fungicides, seed treatments, tissue testing, increase in scouting, etc. Who do I need to reach out to along the way to make things happen? Retailers, seed dealers, custom applicators, diagnostic labs, etc. When does this need to occur? Be general at this point such as pre-plant, early season, after flowering, etc. Where do I want to make this change at? Start small. Making changes on a broad scale can quickly become overwhelming. Finally, why do I want to do this? Do you want to try and win a yield contest or are you looking for your personal yield best or for biggest ROI?

M – Measurable
Make sure you have metrics set to know if you met that goal. If it’s a longer-term goal, set milestones along the way to make it more tangible. Having an overall field average increase of 10% or having clean fields at harvest are just a couple tangible ways to measure the success of a goal.

A – Achievable 
This is where you want to focus on how important this goal is and what you need to do to make this goal happen. Do you have the right tools, skills, personnel? If not, what do you need to do to get those tools, develop those skills or meet those people?

R – Relevant
Make sure your goal fits and can help your operation. For example, timely spray applications fit all operations, but if you do conventional tillage having a goal around burndown likely is not relevant.

T – Timely
This is where you want to be more specific around the “When” from the Specific section of your goal. An example would be overlapping residuals with spray applications every 21 days (+/- 3 days) until crop canopy. Or take tissue samples at V2, V5, V8, R1, R2, R3 to assess fertility needs.

Execute and analyze
We all have goals when it comes to our operation each year, some written, some thought, some verbal, and some that never make it past being a resolution. In tough agronomic and economic situations, having goals that are SMART can help guide soybean producers to what is important for their operation. Take notes along the way on how the goal progresses and how well you were able to meet each step. Did you complete your goal and, if not, what went wrong along the way or what can you tweak to improve for next time? A farmer I worked with early in my career told me “I don’t have 22 years of experience; I have 1 year of experience 22 times.” Each year is different with different challenges and the learning process never ends. I hope this helps your resolution become a goal, which could become a reality and ultimately improve your operation.

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About the Author: Randy Niver

Currently a Technical Agronomist for Asgrow DEKALB in East Central Illinois, Niver works closely with dealers and sellers to make product and placement recommendations for their growers. Niver has been with Bayer Crop Science for 15 years and has been in many aspects of the business from R&D, regulatory and commercial. He has a wife (Angie) and three boys (Luke-4, Will-3, and Colt-2) that all work together on a small family farm with corn, soybeans, wheat, grass and alfalfa hay, beef cattle, chickens, ducks, goats, and horses.