An operational objective is a measurable short-term goal that assists a company in obtaining its strategic or long-term goal. Operational objectives are usually evaluated using performance measures that help a company determine whether it is on track or off course. Apart from being specific and measurable, operational objectives must also be agreed upon (consensual), realistic and time sensitive. Referred to as the SMART principles, these objectives differ based on the needs of company.


Operational objectives should be clear and well defined. If a company's mission is to change the world, it's operational objectives should explain how it hopes to accomplish that. For example, the Barrow Cadbury Trust is a charitable foundation in England. The trust lists one of its operational objectives as support for "research that explores and raises awareness of gender specific issues." To meet this operational objective, the trust commissions new projects or adds support to existing ones.


Operational objectives must be measurable if they are to be successful. How companies measure these objectives will vary greatly depending on the simplicity or complexity of their organizational structure. The measurability of operational objectives should not be complex. An entry-level employee should be able to determine whether the goal is attainable and how far away it is from completion. Every employee should be able to discern when the operational objective has been met.

Agreed Upon

When operational objectives are created without input from those at the lower levels, it might create resistance from employees who feel their input is not valued. It is best for organizations to try to incorporate feedback from all levels so that everyone is encouraged to play a part in helping the company achieve them.


In seeking feedback from entry-level employees when creating operational objectives, management can be better informed of the operational challenges the business might face. Employees at the entry level generally work directly with customers or clients and can be helpful in more clearly separating lofty goals from realistic ones. A company should also understand what resources it has at its disposal to achieve the operational objectives it creates.

Time Sensitive

Every operational objective should have a time factor connected with it. Whether the time frame is a month, six months, a year or more will depend entirely upon the goal and the resources needed to accomplish it. It might be helpful to assign priority and a time frame to operational objectives based on the affect they would have on overall customer or client satisfaction. FedEx, for example, employs a Survey Quality Indicator and updates its weights and measures based on responses to its customer satisfaction surveys. Operational objectives that have more weight might need to be completed in a faster time frame than those that do not affect customer satisfaction as much.