Creating Effective Objectives for Project Planning
Achieving success in any project requires well-defined and effective project objectives.
We often view ‘objectives’ as being the same as ‘KPIs’, however despite both being centred around achieving and measuring results, it is key we acknowledge them both as two independent things that contribute to our project strategy and business success in different ways.
Objectives, which are influenced by goals, provide a detailed, measurable description of desired outcomes of a project. They form a wider, more strategic approach to project management than just the results are we hoping to gain. Project objectives are a crucial component of project management, encompassing the entire lifecycle of a project, from team ideation & creation to project completion. Project objectives should be achievable, measurable, and have a timeline. They should also be specific, realistic, and aligned with the overall goals of the project.
“SMART objectives are what allows you to be able to monitor the effectiveness of the objectives, if your objectives are not SMART then you are setting yourself up to not achieve. I would go a couple of steps further and go SMARTER – Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Realistic, Timely, Evaluated, Results driven. This will enable successful objectives to be set.”
By comparing objectives with KPIs, we note that Key Performance Indicators are signals of success and/or achievement of a certain goal, whether it is data-driven or anecdotal. For example, every business will have many strategic objectives, each one of which will be fulfilled by a range of activities, projects and campaigns throughout each business function. Each of these projects will have several KPIs attached acting as markers of the project’s success.
Let’s say the business has a strategic objective this year to increase the number of clients within a certain industry, each business function will set out a number of projects and subtasks with the view to execute and achieve this strategic objective. For example, the Marketing department is to run a campaign made up of several projects and deliverables to target the new industry. This campaign will have its own objectives, such as; increasing web traffic, boosting social media reach to the new industry and generating new leads. In the example, our KPIs are the more specific results that demonstrate whether the Marketing team has achieved their objectives, the statistics and data such as website traffic increase by percentage, the number of leads compared to other campaigns, percentage of clicks, etc.
It is often easier in most businesses to identify what they would like the KPIs to be for each project and objective, even if they aren’t specific but broader. This is why we see KPIs leading project management strategies as opposed to the objectives, both for projects and the business, that will support long-term success.
Let’s continue to look specifically at project objectives and their close relationship with KPIs.
1. The Early Bird Catches the Success
Setting project goals and objectives early in the project lifecycle enables the team to establish critical performance indicators and create a roadmap to guide the project's direction. Goals and objectives, along with success criteria, must be defined in meticulous detail and communicated clearly to the project team. This enables the team to understand what success looks like, providing direction and motivation to achieve project objectives.
2. Converting your vision into realistic objectives
Once the project goals and objectives have been established, they should be aligned with the project vision and refined into intelligent project objectives that the team can strive for throughout the project's lifespan. This isn’t to say you must lower your expectations and enthusiasm for what you want to achieve. The key thing here is to break your overall vision down into achievable chunks for those timeframes (or sprints if you work in that way). If you are expecting to achieve absolutely everything from the start, your KPIs will likely be over-ambitious and your staff will feel demotivated that the goals are unachievable and even more pressured when KPIs are not met.
3. Continued measurement and review
The project plan, which outlines the critical elements necessary for success, should be clearly understood by the team and stakeholders. The project's goals and objectives should be measurable to ensure that the project's progress can be monitored and evaluated. Regular reviews should be conducted to ensure that the project is on track and the team is working towards the desired outcome.
“Building engagement and review into a project or change process is vital to keep the momentum and also the focus. This would then help you achieve the desired objective and KPI outcomes,”
4. It’s a team effort
It is important to note that the project manager cannot set the project objectives alone. The whole project team must be involved in the process, constantly assessing their work and redirecting their focus to align with the project objectives. In turn, engaging your teams in the early stages will allow them to share their thoughts and feedback on the project and how it supports the strategic business objectives. Having this buy-in will result in more motivated and productive teams who feel heard and involved. Without well-defined project objectives, there is no clear way to communicate project goals or measure success.
Effective project objectives provide a way to communicate with the team and align their work with the quality expectations of stakeholders. Well-written project objectives increase the likelihood of project success by providing clear expectations for clients and breaking down objectives into achievable tasks and steps for the team.
'The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime.' – Babe Ruth
The most effective project objectives are concrete, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Objectives provide a way to outline goals for the project and get results over short periods, while project goals focus on achieving long-term gains. Quality project objectives focus on improving services or products to increase results and bring the company closer to its goals.
In conclusion, defining and achieving project objectives is critical to project success. Effective project objectives provide direction, motivation, and a measurable way to track progress throughout the project lifecycle. By involving the project team and stakeholders in the process, setting well-defined project objectives becomes an essential element of project management.
Find out more about how Project Plan Services (PPS) can support you with creating effective objectives as part of a long-term project management strategy.