Project management requires juggling each aspect of a project, often requiring compromises between conflicting needs. The project's goals and objectives determine focus, balance and direction, establishing desired outcomes to guide project team members' decisions and performance. Statements give planning direction, targets for evaluation and guides for action.
The SMART Money
An effective method to guide goal and objective statements uses the SMART mnemonic. Quality goal statements are specific, measureable, attainable or agreed-upon, realistic and time-based -- "SMART," in other words. Objectives are usually nested within goals, the steppingstones toward goal completion, though objective statements are complete within themselves. This allows individual teams to work on objectives independently while still contributing to the group goal. Completion of objectives frequently makes up part of the measurable elements included in goal statements.
Right on Time
Deadlines are a fact of life, and the ultimate success of a project is delivering the product or service on time. The well-crafted goal statement will summarize time-based targets in several ways. The project deadline addresses the time component of the SMART goal statement, and completion dates for objectives create the project timeline while also providing a metric for progress. For example, tracking objective completion alone gives an idea of the percentage of progress, while adding due dates for objectives delivers on-time performance.
On the Money
Meeting budget constraints might be part of your goal statement or its own objective, depending on how central cost control is to an objective. For example, one project may target improved efficiency, with every cost savings contributing to the goal; another may aim for improved customer service, with costs secondary to satisfying clients. Objectives may be used to allocate the project budget so cost performance can be broken down and evaluated by objective.
Playing the Stakes
While falling outside the SMART guidelines, goal and objective statements may include references to the stakeholders involved. This identifies paths of communication and prioritizes efforts toward project completion. For example, one team may be working on an objective that another team requires before completing its own. Defining stakeholders helps establish the interactivity necessary to unify progress. Including the end customer also helps you focus on the purpose of a goal or objective.
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