How to set Clear Project Objectives
“This project will improve our results,” said my sponsor, “so put that down as the project objective.” We were sitting together working on the project charter. When it came to the section where we were supposed to record the project objectives, ‘improve results’ didn’t fill up half the available space on the document template.
“What, exactly, are you looking to improve with this project?” I said carefully. It’s important on projects to work out what you are letting yourself in for at the initiation stage – in other words, what does your sponsor really expect to get out of the project? “You know, better times, more customers, that sort of stuff,” my sponsor replied. Hmm. That’s not the kind of response I was looking for, and I certainly couldn’t put ‘improve stuff’ as part of the project documentation. That didn’t give me or the team the guidance we needed to ensure that we managed the project to achieve the objectives and deliver the benefits. So I had to talk to my sponsor (gently) about the best way to define and set clear objectives. Objectives should be SMART: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely.
Above all else, objectives should be specific. They should define something concrete and that is what the project will seek to deliver. For example, “improve results” is not specific. “Increase the number of repeat sales to existing customers” is specific. That gives you something tangible to record in your project documentation and work towards. The project team can clearly see what the business is trying to achieve through this project.
Objectives should be measurable. If you are trying to increase
the number of repeat sales to existing customers, you need to know how many sales of this type you currently have. Then you can build more information into the objective. For example, “increase by 60%” is good, but if you don’t know what the baseline sales information is, you can’t...
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