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Project Planning Objectives

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 4/30/2013

This article discusses how to set objectives when planning projects.

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    Why Set Objectives?

    Clear objectives lead to a higher rate of project success.By taking the time to properly plan your project’s objectives, the tasks leading toward these objectives are easily created. If a sailor knows where the fish are, he can direct his boat to the proper spot. Project planning is no different.

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    Writing Good Objectives

    picture Because good project plans require good objectives, it is important to understand how to write good objectives. Good objectives are finite in scope and duration. They are measurable. They are realistic. Good objectives are clear and they require actions to complete. Good objectives have every element of being attainable if the project plan is followed. In fact, objectives can make or break a project.

    Objectives for projects can be as simple as “develop a new software program to track expenses” or as long reaching as “increase profits 20 percent in the next quarter.” The important thing is that these objectives lead to a project path.

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    Examples of Bad Objectives

    If good objectives follow the acronym SMART (specific, measurable, action-driven, realistic, time-bound) then bad objectives conversely do not follow this example. Read these poorly written objectives to get an idea:

    • Increase the number of clients our company serves.
    • Make customers happy
    • Create some sort of new product.
    • Make more money.
    • Achieve success.
    • Share knowledge.
    • Find funding.
    • Eliminate quality problems.

    The reasons these objectives are bad are because they lack specifics, they don’t rely upon actions, or they focus upon a means to an end rather than an end.

    Let’s look at the final example: “Eliminate quality problems.” The statement isn’t specific enough. By changing this objective to be more specific, measurable, action-driven, realistic, and time-bound, it can become a good objective. First, the statement needs to be more specific. What kind of quality problems need to be eliminated? If the product is software, perhaps there need to be fewer bugs in the software. The objective might, then be: Reduce the number of bugs in the software.

    This isn’t enough however, because we still don’t know how much reduction is enough. In order to answer this question, the objective can be rewritten to read, “Reduce the number of bugs in the software by 75 percent.” What are the actions that will be taken to reduce the number of bugs? Is this a realistic figure? When will this be completed?

    All of these questions must be answered in order to produce an objective that is useful in the project planning process. A final statement of the above objective might be: “Reduce the number of bugs in the software by 75 percent, using careful beta testing and implementing corrections by June.”

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    Further Reading:

    For more information on how to set objectives in project planning, view the following articles:

    Ronda Bowen's Project Management Helps Meet Strategic Objectives

    Ronda Bowen's Defining the Project Schedule Hierarchy

    Donna Cosmato's Real Life Project Management Process Examples


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