Communication of Goals
Despite some of the conversations that you'll hear around the water cooler, goals generally exist for a reason. Sure, there may be a few project managers out there that delight in spreading stress and discontent, but that's definitely the exception and not the rule. When someone doesn't understand why a certain goal exists, that's usually due to miscommunication in some form or another.
When attempts are made to explain and establish clear goals, team members will often give some indication that those goals are understood even if they aren't. But, how can you make sure that people really understand the goals and aren't just nodding and smiling?
To begin, whenever possible, make goal-setting a joint effort between the manager and team member. Instead of coming up with a list of goals, passing around the list, and declaring it to be law, let the person responsible for meeting the goals be part of establishing clear goals. In fact, you may even want to start the goal-setting process by asking the team member what he or she thinks fair and reasonable goals would be. Not only does this allow the person to be involved in the decision-making process, but it also opens up the floor for discussion on points why each goal is important and needs to be met.
For large projects, sometimes these one-on-one meetings aren't feasible. In these instances, you can supply a list of overall project goals to the entire team and request feedback on what needs to happen from each division of the team to realize these goals. This strategy, which uses elements of the backward goal-setting philosophy, allows individuals to have input concerning goals directly related to them as well as those relating to peers in other divisions. So, instead of using your project manager position as a means to assign goals to everyone, you can use it to facilitate discussions and compromises of what needs to be accomplished in the project.
Develop a communication plan and have regular meetings to discuss the progress being made for each goal. If there are obstacles, including human obstacles, ask for input on how those obstacles can be overcome. When appropriate, be open to revising existing goals, but be firm enough to communicate the effect these revisions will have on the overall project.