Poor project planning that lacks clearly defined objectives can lead to many issues, including late deliverables, missed milestones, increased project costs, and dissatisfied clients.
When working collaboratively on a project, goal setting is key in providing project managers with the “big picture” view of everything that needs to be accomplished to complete a project successfully.
Setting a project goal doesn’t mean simply listing out to-dos and milestones. Project goals should be developed in a way that ensures all parties contribute in order to understand the impact and goal of the overall project as well as its individual components.
Project goals should also detail the responsibilities of each team member and their assigned deliverables, such as the deadline and what components the deliverable is expected to contain.
In this article, you’ll discover how to clearly define project goals and leverage visual planning software as part of the process.
How to define project goals
Some of the most common project goals include:
- Project outcome goals.
- High-level project management performance goals.
- Project-level project management performance goals.
Let’s take a closer look at each.
Project outcome goals
Project outcome goals are the tasks that must be accomplished for the project to be considered complete. For example, a project launched to assess employee performance may not include just the evaluation of employee performance, but the delivery of these reports to employees and upper management.
Project outcome goals can also involve targets with specific numerical goals, such as conversion rates, improved quality scores, numbers of followers on social media, etc. These projects will not be considered complete until this specific number is met.
High-level project management performance goals
High-level project management performance goals include specific goals, as well as broader goals. Examples could include the following:
- Increased productivity.
- Increased profits.
- Improved customer satisfaction.
- Increased employee engagement and satisfaction.
- Decreased operating costs.
An example of a high-level project management performance goal could be to operate within 2.5% of your budget for a project. Another example would be to decrease operational costs by a specific amount within a certain timeframe.
Project-level project management performance goals
If you set high-level project management performance goals, you will need to set more detailed goals in order to achieve your high-level objectives. These are project-level goals.
For example, if your company’s goal is to operate within 2.5% of your budget for a project as mentioned above, you may set the following project-level goals:
- Review all operating costs to ensure you are selecting the most affordable materials from reliable vendors.
- Establish a timeline of operating costs for your project.
- Conduct a weekly cost analysis of the project to ensure the costs align with the timeline.
These smaller goals will help you work towards (and achieve) your larger project goals.
How to set realistic project goals
An effective method for actuating your project goals is to ensure they are SMART, or “specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.”
The tenets of SMART are as follows:
Specific. Goals should not be generic. Clearly state what you want to achieve in a descriptive, detailed manner.
- Good example: Double the number of product units your company manufactures within the next 18 months.
- Bad example: Increase production.
Measurable. How will you ensure that your project is on track, or confirm that you’re sticking to your allocated budget? Metrics play a key role in project management, so make sure to set clear numeric goals and evaluate your progress against them regularly.
- Good example: A document listing every deliverable for your project, the date each is due, and what factors you will use to determine the successful completion of this deliverable.
- Bad example: A general outline of the steps needed to complete your project, without any concrete deadlines attached to them.
Attainable. If your targets are impossible, they will never be met. Do you truly have all the resources and capabilities you need to reach your goals?
- Good example: You know that your team must start on another large project in a month, so you make sure to set achievable goals that factor in the workload they will be taking on.
- Bad example: You assign your entire team responsibilities that will require most of their time to complete, disregarding any other work or projects they may be tasked with.
Relevant. Your project and its goals should align with the rest of the business and its operations. Make sure that your project will serve a bigger purpose within your organization.
- Good example: Your company’s new hire training materials are outdated and cause confusion among new hires, so you decide to kick off a project to overhaul this process and update all necessary reference documents.
- Bad example: You’re unhappy with a new software solution your company purchased. Rather than try to figure out a way to solve the issues you’re experiencing, you compile a list of all the things you don’t like about the solution and forward it to your manager.
Timely. Your projects need clear dates attached to them. While the end date may change based on external factors, it is important to assign specific project milestones with clear due dates to help keep all project participants on track.
- Good example: You’re launching a project to revamp training materials. Your project plan clearly lists all documents that must be revised and has target dates for revisions, edits, and when final documents should be replaced and put into use.
- Bad example: Your project plan to revamp training materials states that the project will be completed “around the end of Q2.”
Set better project management goals with MindManager
To create, implement, and oversee projects, consider using a tool such as MindManager®. With visual productivity tools and mind mapping software, MindManager supports you and your team during all the steps of your next project.
During the project planning stage of your project, MindManager’s mind mapping tool enables you to visualize your plan and each of its components (such as the sub-projects).
As you carry out each phase of your project, MindManager enables you to assign tasks to individuals or teams, and track processes using workflow diagrams. MindManager also links to other documents (e.g., as strategy maps and timeline charts) to help manage all aspects of a project.
Managers can keep their projects on track by utilizing one of MindManager’s Kanban boards. A Kanban board is a project management tool that increases efficiency among teams working collaboratively.
With Kanban boards, managers can plan out daily workloads, visualize and manage workflows, and manage numerous parallel processes at once. Kanban boards also help identify bottlenecks that can slow down project efficiency.
To stay on budget, MindManager has built-in (and customizable) budgeting and forecasting tools and templates. With these tools, your budget spreadsheets transform into visual diagrams that make it easy to comprehend and organize all your project data and inputs.
MindManager also features an intuitive user interface that integrates with Microsoft Project, Sharepoint, and Excel (among other solutions) to help all participants get up and running quickly.
And with MindManager’s Snap function, users can easily incorporate photos or screenshots from other devices into correspondence or mind maps.