Project goals and objectives are similar in some ways and different in others. Although both can be used to guide a team through a project, a goal can be viewed as the purpose of the project, while an objective can be used to provide a map for hitting a goal.

To become a more effective project manager, it’s necessary to have a clear understanding of what a goal is versus what an objective is, and how to write and use each of these.

Tips to Understand and Write Project Goals and Objectives

  1. What are Your Objectives?
  2. What are Your Goals?
  3. How to Write Project Objectives and Goals
  4. SMART Objectives and SMART Goals for Project Managers

What Are Your Objectives?

 You can use objectives to clarify the goals of a project before you begin, and you can use them for the duration of a project to keep your team on track toward meeting stakeholder expectations. Also, objectives come in handy when you want to measure progress during a project, as well as when you want to see how well your team performed after the project’s completion.

  • Objectives are specific and measurable, and your team and stakeholders should agree on them.
  • They state what should be achieved by the time the project is complete, including tangible deliverables and they should be realistic.
  • Should be time-constrained and direct your team from start to finish, and they should be kept in mind as you make decisions to keep the project moving in the right direction.

As objectives are met, you should get closer to fulfilling project goals.

Project objectives example: Decrease the number of click-throughs to website so the customer gets to the goal of the link within 1 to 2 clicks.

What Are Your Goals?

While objectives are more specific and short-term, goals are more general and long-term.  Goals are represented in statements that help your team understand what the project has to accomplish for a business. Like objectives, you should be able to measure and track progress on goals to ensure you’re on the path toward meeting them.

  • Goals can be less specific, showcasing what should be possible for a business once a project is completed.
  • They can be centered on resources, deadlines, and performance.
  • Should focus on the long run and the ultimate purpose of the project. Objectives focus on the steps that need to be taken in the short term to reach the goals.

Project goals examples: Increase click-thoughts to website from social media by 15% within three months of release.

How to Write Project Objectives and Goals

It’s best to write your goals and objectives in a way that will be easy to understand. So, rather than using complex terms, stick to plain language and be brief.

Whoever reads your goals and objectives should immediately know what needs to be accomplished by a certain date. Therefore, sticking with action words and numbers is also recommended.

SMART Objectives and Goals for Project Managers

 Whether you’re writing objectives or goals, you can use the SMART method to articulate what you expect to achieve during a project. You can then share these clear expectations with your team so you can work together to get things done.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound:

  • Specific – Goals and objectives should be defined, so anyone who reads them will understand what’s expected of them. Be clear so your team will know what the preferred outcome is, as well as the individual milestones that need to be met along the way.
  • Measurable – The best way to track progress and see if your team is meeting objectives and goals is by making them measurable. For example, if the goal is to boost sales, set the percentage of increase (e.g. 25%) you’d like to see after the project solution has been implemented.
  • Achievable – Of course, you’ll want your objectives and goals to be attainable, so as you write them, think about whether it’s really possible to achieve them. Take time to consider the steps needed in order to avoid problems like scope creep to ensure success.
  • Realistic – In addition to being achievable, a goal or objective should be realistic. You and your team should have the time, resources, budget, and tools available to make things happen. Expectations shouldn’t be out of reach.
  • Time-Bound – Every goal and objective should have a start date and end date. As you work on a schedule, keep in mind that you might need to wait for one objective to be completed before your team can move on to the next one.

Are You Meeting Your Project Goals and Objectives?

It might take a little practice at first, but once you’re accustomed to writing clear and concise goals and objectives, you will find it easier to manage projects. After establishing these at the start of a project, you’ll be able to refer to them often to see if everything is on track or if changes need to be made.


Cate Curry
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