Project Management Tips

4. What constitutes a good project goal statement?

The project goal statement should be the driving force behind the project. It should be the touchstone against which everything done on the project is measured. A good project goal statement is SMART

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Agreed-upon
  • Realistic
  • Time-framed

Specific: The goal should state exactly what the project is to accomplish. It should be phrased using action words (such as "design," "build," "implement," etc.). It should be limited to those essential elements of the project that communicate the purpose of the project and the outcome expected.


Measurable: If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. In the broadest sense, the whole goal statement is a measure for the project; if the goal is accomplished, the project is a success. However, there are usually several short-term or small measurements that can be built into the goal. Caution: Watch for words that can be misinterpreted such as; improve, increase, reduce (by how much?), customer satisfaction (who decides if they're satisfied and how?), etc. If you must include them, be sure to include how they will be measured. If you use "jargon" terms, be sure that everyone who reads them interprets them the same way.


Agreed-upon: Does everyone in the organization have to agree that the project is necessary and desirable? No. Then who? Obviously, those who must do the project need to agree that it is necessary. Realistically, those individuals who control the resources necessary to get the project done need to agree that it is important. In addition, those who will be impacted by the project should agree that it needs to be done. Beyond that, agreement about the project is not likely to impact your ability to get it done one way or another.


Realistic: This is not a synonym for "easy." Realistic, in this case, means "do-able." It means that the learning curve is not a vertical slope; that the skills needed to do the work are available; that the project fits with the overall strategy and goals of the organization. A realistic project may push the skills and knowledge of the people working on it but it shouldn't break them.


Time-framed: Probably one of the easiest PARTS of the goal to establish the deadline. Very little is ever accomplished without a deadline. This is particularly true of work that is in addition to everything else that you need to do in your day. Building the delivery deadline into the project goal keeps it in front of the team and lets the organization know when they can expect to see the results.


Most effective project goals are between 25 and 50 words. They can be written on one side of a 3" x 5" card. They can be quoted at the drop of a hat.


Goal identification is a key step in

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Jeff Crow is a Portland, Oregon consultant and trainer. He conducts seminars and workshops on project management and organizational development for corporations and through the Professional Development Center at Portland State University.

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