Goals & Objectives

Section Last Updated 17-Dec-2015 12:51

Goals and objectives are usually considered to be fundamentally different; they are not. Goals and objectives are both relationships between outcomes and performers and, ideally, rationales.

The distinction between them reflects the different values that a single outcome may have to different performers; a desired outcome might be a goal for one person and an objective to another.

A goal is something worth achieving in its own right; an objective is worth achieving only to the extent that it contributes to the ultimate achievement of a goal. In other words, goals reflect the intrinsic value of something to someone, whereas objectives reflect conditional value.

Examples and Commentary

For example, suppose there were a project to develop a new direct marketing mailshot system with two sub-projects: one to collect and store information on addressees and one to select and mail particular addressees based on campaign objectives and demographic criteria. To the business as a whole, the successful completion of the new direct marketing system is a goal and the successes of the two sub-projects are objectives: neither project delivers business value on its own.

However, to the sub-project managers, the successes of their projects are goals: it is the project manager’s job to see that a project’s objectives are met.

Whilst in this case it could be said that the sub-project managers might also be given success of the overall project as goals in order to encourage effective collaboration, in principle someone who has an outcome as a goal may have no idea how their success or failure might specifically affect a higher-level organisational objective.

From a modelling perspective, mutability of goals and objectives is a problem unless they are recognised as different facets of the same underlying thing (an outcome) and modelled as relationships,; because the same outcome has different values to different performers, models that omit the outcome per se and instead describe it from particular perspectives as either a goal or an objective obscure the commonality of the outcome and impede the coherent integration of those models.

The Importance of Rationales

Business cases and strategies deal with goals, but when one has limited resources or time (or both) one must often choose between or prioritise the achievement of a set of goals; then it is most helpful to understand why individuals goals have particular values so that they can be prioritised, i.e. so that the most beneficial set compatible with the known constraints can be identified and selected as targets for achievement.

Pin It on Pinterest