Identifying Project Needs and Objectives

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Define project objectives

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Key Idea

The next step is to define your project's objectives. The success of your project will be defined by how well you meet your objectives. Thus, the more explicitly you state your objectives at the outset, the less disagreement there will be at the end about whether you have met them.

When defining an objective, think SMART. In other words, an objective should be:

  • Specific, for example, who, when, or how many?
  • Measurable, for example, a success rate, or percentage completed
  • Action-oriented, for instance, make a recommendation, or, conduct a survey
  • Realistic, for example, does it meet your budget parameters?
  • Time-limited, for instance, by a specific day or month

For example, consider a task force within an HR department that has been charged with developing a new health care benefits plan. Its SMART objective might be:

"To survey... (action-oriented)

...at least six providers that meet the department's minimum threshold criteria for service quality" (measurable).

"To recommend... (action-oriented)

...at the June board of directors' meeting... (time-oriented)

...the three providers... (specific)

...that offer the best and broadest coverage at a cost that is at least 10% less... (realistic)

...than the company's current per-employee contribution."

Choosing SMART objectives will keep your team on track and help you assess progress. After all, if you don't know what you're trying to do, how do you know if you've done it?

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