It’s hard to navigate your way to an unknown destination. This is why, as a project manager, it’s nearly impossible to guide a project to success without project objectives. By utilizing SMART project objectives, PMs and their teams can plan projects efficiently and ensure on-time, on-budget delivery.
While setting goals gives you direction and purpose, writing these goals down in detail helps you actually achieve them. It's all well and good to give yourself lofty objectives for the year, but breaking them down into actionable, measurable tasks will get you over the line.
What are project objectives?
Simply put, project objectives are the specific goals that you want the project to accomplish. The project objectives will impact every decision in the project life cycle, which is why it’s so critical to state the project objectives as clearly as possible from the outset.
Introducing SMART project objectives
Often used to develop both personal and business goals, the SMART system is also highly effective for creating project objectives. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Let’s explore each of these elements a little more closely.
When project objectives are too vague, it can lead to a lack of focus or motivation. For instance, it’s hard to get excited over a goal of “increasing sales.” However, if your project objective is to “increase sales by 15% over last quarter’s sales,” now you and your team know exactly what to aim for and can better plan and execute a strategy to achieve it.
When crafting specific project objectives, try to identify the five Ws of each goal: what do you want to accomplish, why is it important, who is involved, where is it needed or located, and which resources or limits will be in play?
In order to know precisely how much progress you’ve made, your project objectives need to be measurable. What’s more, measurable goals will allow you to track progress throughout the project life cycle and help you stay focused and on target to meet the deadline.
Measurable project objectives should answer the questions how much, how many, and how will I know when the goal is accomplished?
When you set unrealistic and unachievable project objectives, you set yourself and your team up for failure. Instead, set yourself up for success by ensuring that your goals are actually attainable based on the resources at your disposal and the existing constraints.
An attainable project objective can challenge your team’s capabilities while still being within their grasp. Setting attainable yet challenging goals can force you to identify opportunities you previously overlooked or resources that can help you along the way.
A relevant project objective is one that aligns with other business goals and is considered worthwhile to the organization or to the client.
Finally, effective project objectives have a clear deadline or defined end. When projects are not time-bound, it’s easy to get distracted and let those objectives fall by the wayside. Well-defined project milestones and deadlines will help keep the project team on track toward accomplishing their tasks in a timely manner.
Are SMART goals the same as OKRs?
OKR stands for "objectives and key results," a management framework used to set goals and identify metrics to measure progress. Objectives are your destination, while key results make up the path that will get you there.
SMART goals are comparable to these key results — they both offer a way to create goals that are realistic, measurable, and time-bound. However, OKRs don't look at goals in isolation, but as a part of the overall company mission. The OKR framework is a little more defined with quarterly cycles, mid-quarter progress check-ins, and a cascading OKR structure.
Think of it this way: SMART is a guideline for individual goal-setting, while OKRs provide a framework for setting goals company-wide.
How to write an objective
Project objectives may seem pretty straightforward. However, when it comes to defining and writing objectives, it helps to follow a tiered system. Here are some tips for how to write an objective that meets the SMART criteria:
- Start with a vision statement.
Every project should begin with a vision statement. Think of this as the high-level overview that describes the project’s direction and aspiration, even if it’s something unachievable. The vision statement helps inform the strategy, so it’s OK for the vision to be somewhat lofty or “pie in the sky.” The vision should help inspire and motivate your project team.
- Outline your goals.
With the vision in place, it’s time to outline your goals. Goals are also high-level and typically broad or long-term in scope, but they are the driving force behind objectives. In other words, project objectives are the means by which you seek to achieve goals.
- State your project objectives.
Now you’re ready to develop your project objectives. These are the nitty-gritty statements that describe specific results that the project seeks to produce. As we’ve seen, project objectives should adhere to the SMART system for maximum impact.
Project objectives examples
Let’s say your department has a vision of 100% customer satisfaction. Even though it may be unachievable in reality, this vision provides the motivation and inspiration for a more specific goal and a SMART project objective.
For instance, a goal that feeds into the vision of 100% customer satisfaction may be a more efficient online customer support ticket system. From there, you can develop a project objective of implementing a new online customer support system to achieve ticket response times of less than one hour. The project objective would also include a specific date for completion as well as metrics by which to measure the outcome.
How to define project objectives with Wrike
With Wrike’s project management platform, you and your team can easily create and define objectives to steer each project. For instance, you can create a new project folder within Wrike that team members can use to brainstorm ideas and goals. From there, you can collaborate to ensure the goals align with the vision, then refine them into SMART project objectives that you’ll strive to achieve during the project lifecycle.
Want to know more about how Wrike can help you define and achieve project objectives? Get started with a free two-week trial today!