What are you trying to achieve? Eight reasons why identifying clear goals is so important

Every project needs an aim … A goal! Without a goal, projects wouldn’t be happening, would they?

All too frequently,however, project goals look a bit more like a vague idea. But clearly identified goals are so, so important.
Have a look at our pointers below and find out why goals are so useful:

1. Goals tell you when you’ve arrived

How do you know whether you’ve had success when you reach the end of a project? How do you know whether it was delivered successfully? Whether the project was completed? Or even before that – how do you even know whether the project is finished?

You can only prove the success of a project and whether it’s completed if you have a list of previously-defined goals.

2. Goals will give you an answer to important questions

Where are we going?
What do we want to have achieved by the end of the project?

When you tackle these questions, you can make sure that everybody knows where the journey goes. You set the bottom line for your project.

3. Goals provide a unified team

When several people work together, it is always so easy to suffer from mis-understandings and confusion.
Clearly identified and written down goals can avoid these problems from the beginning: everybody in the team has the same understanding of what is required and what the end-result should be.

4. Goals help with project coordination

Too many goals, too many people involved? Clearly identified goals can be incredibly helpful for identifying responsibilities. Specific team members can take responsibility for specific aspects of the overall goal.
It’s not always possible to share responsibility this way and it’s not always sensible either – but would it be a good idea in your project?

5. Goals help making good decisions

Projects never go to plan. In each and every project decisions need to be made. Sometimes that is straightforward, and sometimes decisions have to be made weighing up alternative options and finding the best way forward.

In that situation you will find that keeping your eyes on the final goal will help you working out the best option. You can evaluate each option on the basis of how it contributes towards reaching the final goal.

6. Goals help communicating about your project

A: ‘What is this project about?
B: ‘We are working on a way to increase our turnover by 10%.’

If you have worked out clear goals it’s really easy to communicate this to others! This way you don’t just show others what you’re on about you are also able to do some marketing for your own cause.

7. Goals as the basis for reliable agreements

When you set goals you will always have measurable criteria as well. If your project is an in-house affair, cearly defined goals will be the clearest way to lay out what the project entails (and what not) and at what point it is completed. If you are providing a project management as an external consultant, you will find that those clearly stated goals will become key information for your contract with the client. This will avoid confusion and unreasonable additions etc to your work agreement. Furthermore, the precise definition of project goals creates an additional level of reliability and transparency for all involved in the project.

8. Goals are motivating

Who doesn’t like it when they reach their goal/that target/the finish line?
Well-defined and well-communicated goals will encourage you to just give that little bit more to get to the end.
But be aware: unrealistic goals can have the opposite effect: When everybody on the project feels those goals can never be achieved, it is very easy to suffer from serious demotivation.

If you can think of other ways goals help us with projects, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to get in touch with us!

Ricarda Baldock works as a freelance project manager and management consultant with experience in SMEs, the charity sector, in IT projects and in the finance sector.
Among her specialties are project planning, strategic analysis, process improvement, project branding and project marketing.