Set Your Projects Goals

We continue the series of posts about the 6 key factors for the failure of your projects. Last post, we talked about the Spanish Football National Team and the importance of team work in a project’s success. Now we go for the first item of the list: setting the goals as the first step to make a project successful.

Why are goals important?

There are five main reasons:

  1. They are the foundation to make decisions in later stages of the project, at the same time that they allow to define what the boundaries of the project are.
  2. If they are agreed upon with the customer, then you have taken a step forward for having the customer’s expectations fulfilled.
  3. They provide to all members of the team with a clear and well defined target. That’s why it is very important to communicate the project goals to everyone in the team.
  4. They constitute the foundation for the subsequent project planning. They help to divide the work into tasks, estimate their duration and assign the tasks to team members. In addition, once the goals are ranked by priority, it is possible to decide what amount of work and effort you want to invest in each one.
  5. Having no goals means that it is impossible to monitor the development of a project or even to determine if it is successful after its completion.

How can you set good goals?

When you’re defining a goal, it is important that you state it in a very clear way. A common technique that can help you to determine if you have a well-defined goal is to meet the following criteria:

  • Specific: an specific goal has the who, where, when and how clearly defined.
  • Measurable: it is possible to quantify the degree of progress and to determine if the goal has been reached.
  • Achievable: it is important that the goal is not far-fetched. Impossible goals that are too far from your reach decrease the team motivation and eventually will prevent everyone from committing to it.
  • Realistic: a realistic goal has a learning curve that it is not too steep as to make it undo-able. The skills required by it should be related to the current skills of the team.
  • Time bound: it is necessary to establish a time-frame within which the goal has to be reached. Not having one will make the goal too fuzzy.

Going through this checklist is a very common technique and the goals that meet its points are called SMART, as an acronym of the first letter of the criteria.

An example of a well defined goal is:

Decrease the delivery time in one third of the current time before December 31st, by using a new automatic routing system that calculates the best routes across the city based on traffic density.

It is good because it provides a clear description of what is to be achieved, how to achieve it and how is going to be achieved. In an example like this it is difficult to determine if the goal is truly realistic or achievable, that depends on the organization in question. However, what we can see it is that it is possible to measure the degree of completion of the goal given the delivery times.

We encourage you to think about any project you’re involved currently. Were the project goals defined at the beginning of the project? Were they validated by the customer? Were they communicated to all members of the team? Are they SMART goals? If the answer is NO, don’t panic, you can still fix it, but try to do it at soon as possible. Moreover, take into account that redefining project goals when a project is already started may require a new planning for it, however, it is an effort that will pay off later and will minimize the chances of project failure.

We hope that you found this post interesting. If it helps you a bit when you’re defining your next project’s goals then we will be satisfied.

Good luck!


Up With Your Projects!

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