Setting goals and objectives for projects is an essential step because they identify your destination and also provide a road map for getting there.
Projects will only succeed if they have clear goals and objectives. Setting these is a key project management responsibility
Asking the right questions will help you identify meaningful project goals and objectives
Why? Why are we doing this project? Why is it important to the organization? Why is it important to me and the team?
What? What problems is the project expected to solve? What are the real issues at the core of the project? What deliverables do management or the client expect from this project? What criteria will be used to judge success or failure? If we produce deliverables on time and on budget what else represents success?
Who? Who has a stake in the outcome?
How? How do various stakeholders goals differ?
The terms “goals” and “objectives” are often used interchangeably. But it’s important to avoid confusion and sort out the difference between goals and objectives.
Goals are the project “Destination. . . “ They relate to the broader project aspirations and identify the project “destination”. In other words what will the project accomplish? What is the desired final outcome? Projects may have more than one goal, and there may be many objectives for each goal.
Objectives are the project “Road Map . . . “ Objectives define a set of supporting actions to ensure the broader goals are accomplished. Objectives are your action plan or high level road map. They are specific steps or tasks that must be completed to reach the goal.
Let’s consider the example of a Website re-development project with the goal of “increasing sales on our e-commerce site.” What could some supporting objectives look like?
- Survey customers
- Compare products and pricing with competitors offerings.
- Use the 80/20 rule to identify our most profitable products
- Identify our unique selling proposition.
- Carry out search engine optimisation to increase the page ranking for customers searching for our products.
These goals and objectives are a starting point – but they are general and need to be refined further into SMART goals and objectives. Goals and objectives that are SMART are more likely to be achieved. When broad goals and objectives get the SMART treatment, they emerge as focused targets that can be acted on by the project team.
When we talk about setting goals and objectives for projects, what does SMART stand for?
S is for Specific – well defined and clearly understood.
M is for measureable – you can measure the result of your goal or objective and know when it has been accomplished.
A is for Achievable – you have the resources and time to accomplish the project goals and objectives.
R is for realistic – goals and objectives must fit within the broad project and be a reasonable way of proceeding. For instance a project goal may be achievable, but not realistic, if it is not aligned with business or organizational goals.
T is for Time bound – Goals and objectives must have a deadline, otherwise they will be continually deferred, delayed or denied – and perhaps all three!
Reaching project goals equates to project success. But to achieve your goals you first have to define them clearly and then support them with an action plan of well written objectives. So establish SMART goals that identify your project destination and support them with SMART objectives that set out your high level road map. If you do this, you are much more likely to achieve successful project outcomes.
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