The definition of goals, strategies and objectives can vary from company to company. Here is the TenStep definition.
TenStep does not use the term “project goals”. Goals are set at the organization level – not the project level. Objectives are at the project level.
Goals are high-level statements that describe what are organization is trying to focus on for the next three to five years. They are vague (on purpose) and they are direction-setting. Because the goal is at a high-level, it will take many projects over a long period of time to achieve the goal. The goal should reference the business benefit in terms of cost, speed and/or quality. (We call this “better, faster, cheaper”.)
Goals are vague, but not too vague. If you can measure the achievement of your goal in one year (i.e. 25% revenue increase by the end of the year), it is written at too low a level and is more of an objective. If your goal is not achievable through any combination of projects, it is probably written at too high a level. Perhaps it is more of a vision.
Business goals tell you what is important. Strategies tell you how you are going to achieve the goals. There may be many ways to achieve your business goals. Your organization’s strategies are a high-level set of directives that articulate how the organization will achieve the goals, and ultimately move toward its long-term vision. Strategies are more inwardly focused and usually try to leverage internal capabilities. For example, many organizations want to get better at project management. Getting better at project management will not directly align to a “better, faster, cheaper” goal. It is more of a “how” so it better aligns to strategy. Your organization could have a strategy to execute projects more effectively and a project management initiative can align to this strategy.
(By the way, your company’s Strategic Plan likely includes both goals and strategy statements.)
Objectives are concrete statements that describe the things the project is trying to achieve. An objective should be written at level that it can be evaluated at the conclusion of a project to see whether it was achieved. A well-worded objective can be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound (SMART). SMART is a technique for wording the objective. An objective does not absolutely have to be SMART to be valid.
Objectives are important because they show an agreement between the project manager and the project sponsor on the main purpose of the project. The objectives should be written in a way that they are understandable by all of the project stakeholders. Objectives are also valuable since they provide alignment to organization goals and strategies. The project objectives should align to your organization goals or strategies.
Copyright © Tom Mochal, TenStep