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Project Goals vs. Objectives

Project Goals vs. Objectives

Aren't project goals and objectives the same thing? You may hear these terms used interchangeably in everyday language, although there is a distinct difference between them.

Setting up objectives and goals early on enables you to motivate team members, establish primary progress indicators, and create a road map for the project team.

On the other hand, failing to do so can delay your project. Changes in objectives and undefined project goals are some of the main reasons projects fail. Therefore, in this article, we will learn how to set apart project goals and objectives and use them together for project success.

Are project goals and objectives the same thing?

It all depends on your perspective. For some, these two are two entirely different things, while for others, objectives and goals are still different but closely related. When you compare these two entities, you need to know that goals and objectives serve different purposes.


On the one hand, project goals are usually high-level targets set by the business, while objectives are the detailed outline of the big picture of the project. Let's for a moment imagine a dot diagram. Think of goals as dots and objectives as numbers.

Objectives lead us to a result or specific project deliverables. A project goal needs to be accomplished, while objectives envision how these goals will be completed. This is only the primary difference between objectives and goals.

Identifying project objectives

Project objectives are specific and consist of smaller tasks that serve a more comprehensive goal. We can place objectives into five general categories.

Strategic: mainly focused on individual objectives your team needs to work towards, like increasing sales by 30% by January or boosting revenue per sale by $100.

Performance: geared towards evaluating the function and processes of your teams. They are ongoing goals that apply to all team members, and collected data can be used to boost the entire organization's productivity. Some performance objectives could be measuring individual task performance or evaluating the accuracy of budget prediction.

Financial: closely related to a specific project's monetary details. They usually deal with the budget and how much money is spent. For example, financial objectives ensure that the budget stays within 10% of the project total or create savings of $40 per unit.

Regulatory: many projects face regulatory requirements depending on the organization. They can be set at a government level or involve matters such as company sustainability goals. Regulatory goals usually keep projects within government regulations, support external stakeholders, or follow and accept a sustainable working policy.

Effectiveness: last but not least, effectiveness objectives try to improve all the processes within a company, like getting high-quality PM software or monitoring remote working directives.

Defining goals

In project management, project goals articulate the desired outcome. Of course, one project can have numerous goals, and they can be high-level and broad. While your goals shouldn't be too specific, they also shouldn't be overly vague.

Let's say you run a digital marketing business, so some of your goals could be increasing blog traffic by 30% by the end of the year or reaching 50,000 YouTube subscribers within six months. Why are these project goals a great example? It's because they offer a clear understanding of what needs to be done and when.

Defining project goals and objectives

Here are a couple of tips and tricks on how you can write project management goals and objectives.

  • Make sure your goals aren't vague: even though this term applies to a broad statement, it doesn't mean your goals should be vague. They need to be written so that readers can understand the purpose of a project.
  • Goals need to align with the problem statement: the purpose of the goals should show readers that you intend to solve a particular problem.
  • Goals should follow your organization's vision statement and mission: every organization addresses particular developmental and social issues, so make sure to have that in mind while writing goals.
  • Use simple language: avoid technical words and jargon and use language that's easy to understand by many people.
  • One goal per proposal: this is an ideal solution because too many goals in a particular project can create confusion.

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Now, let's focus on objectives!

  • They should address the 5Ws: who, where, when, what, and why. So, who are the primary stakeholders, where will you implement the project, when will you conduct the project, what approach will you assume, and why are you proposing a particular thing?
  • Objectives need to support goals: each of your objectives must support higher goals.
  • Objectives should have a logical order: while writing objectives, make sure to keep them logically placed. This way, you can plan all your activities accordingly.
  • Apply the S.M.A.R.T. approach: SMART means objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
  • Use action verbs when writing objectives: verbs like develop, increase, enhance, promote, identify, create, and so on are excellent examples.
  • Keep up to four objectives: according to many experts, one proposal shouldn't have more than four objectives. Having too many of them will simply complicate the project.

Setting a project goal

By setting up goals in project management, you can assess how your team is going and what areas of your project need to be improved. Without goals, your team members will flounder and lose valuable time. That's why we have come up with the best practices for PM goal setting you should try.


Where you are and where you want to be: if you want your goals to be more effective, you need to know where you currently stand, while the next step is figuring out where you want to be. Both of these are crucial and will help you set up more effective goals.

Break down goals: significant goals tend to be vague and challenging to understand. On top of that, team members will find it hard to approach large goals, so make sure to break them into steps.

Make goals measurable and specific: your goals should be specific and provide a clear picture of what reaching each goal looks like.

Team members' strengths and goals: if these two match, it will be easier for team members to accomplish them.

Focus on accomplishment and learning: while goals primarily focus on achievements, learning is an equally important part of this process. It can help your team members grow and develop over time.

Why are goals and objectives important?

When it comes to project management objectives and goals, it's essential to know where your business is heading and how you will get there.

For that very reason, many experts consider goals and objectives crucial parts of an organization because they help you with:

  • Direction
  • Planning
  • Motivation
  • Evaluation
  • Quicker growth
  • Increased financial returns
  • Beating competition

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