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Learn About Quality

SMART Matrix

Quality Glossary Definition: SMART matrix

A SMART matrix is a communication and planning tool used to identify the specifics of actions or tasks. Using an L-shaped matrix to capture the key points of a team's project objectives, a SMART matrix provides a process to review how actions are being implemented around various attributes. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, resources, and time.

Use the SMART matrix tool when you need to:

  • Analyze an implementation plan’s tasks to ensure they are on track
  • Understand the amount of resources needed to implement a plan
  • Understand how the various tasks are sequenced and related

SMART Matrix Procedure

Materials needed: Large writing surface (e.g., flip chart) and pen/marker.

  1. On a large writing surface draw an L-shaped matrix with five columns labeled: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Resources, and Time.
  2. Write the implementation plan title in the upper left of the chart.
  3. Detail the specific tasks to be performed, making each task statement detailed and well defined. The example in Figure 1 below shows a combination of task and objective statements providing measures, outcomes, and time frames.
  4. For each detailed specific task:
    • Define a measure or indicator that can be tracked
    • Determine how it will be attained in actionable terms that are realistic and feasible
    • Indicate the amount and type of resources required to complete each task identified
    • Identify the timeline for completion
  5. Once you have completed the matrix, review the results with the implementation team to ensure that you have accounted for and recorded everything.
  6. Review the matrix to make sure the timeline is realistic and all tasks are not due to be completed on the same day.
  7. Review the matrix and get a feel for the total amount of resources required. Determine if they are available or if adjustments need to be made.

Figure 1 below shows a table summarizing the detailed conversation generated by using the SMART matrix. Notes within the matrix indicate areas of resource constraints that require attention from project sponsors and department leadership.

Figure 1: SMART Matrix Example

Task / objective S M A R T

Reduce overtime for clerical staff by 15% by the end of the 3rd quarter




• Training
• Process mapping
• Office schedule
• Electronic filing

12 months

Recruit five nursing assistants for the vaccination program by July 15



Discuss at December senior management meeting

• Hire tickets
• Salary budget
• Available talent pool

8 months

Enroll the new quality improvement coordinator into team training for 4th quarter




• Training budget
• Appropriate class
• Travel funds
• Time away from current duties

2 months

Visit three substance program community partners each month between December and July




• Director and
health officer schedule
• Travel budget
• Agency car

5 hrs/month

Obtain two additional grants totaling $85K for toxic waste cleanup by 2nd quarter next year



Few funding sources for toxic waste cleanup

• Grant writer
• Chemical analysis equipment
• Chemist

3 months
  Specific Measurable Attainable Resources Time

Excerpted from The Public Health Quality Improvement Handbook, ASQ Quality Press.

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