Your Guide to Defining Clear Project Objectives for Your Team
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Your Guide to Defining Clear Project Objectives for Your Team

Post Author - Kat Boogaard Kat Boogaard Last Updated:

As a project manager, the success and failure of projects objectives that you set for your team rests all on your shoulders. No pressure, right?

Let’s face it—being a project manager is no easy gig. With so many different personalities, deadlines, work approaches, priorities, and communication styles all competing on your single project team, keeping things on track and running smoothly can often feel like a constant uphill battle.

Fortunately, setting clear goals is one surefire way to get all of your team members on the same page and working more collaboratively toward the very same mission. By defining these project objectives, team members can keep their eyes on the bigger picture—rather than getting lost in their own individual pieces of the puzzle.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”eZK62″ via=”yes” ]Project goals are necessary to keep your team on the same page. [/ctt]

No, setting these clear goals won’t do away with all of the issues that can crop up on your team (you wish!), but they will at least allow you to rest assured that everybody has the same endgame in mind.

So, now you’re left with one big question:

How can you set effective project objectives for your team?

With so many different people and pieces at play, what steps do you need to take to outline objectives that are easily understood and motivating for everybody on your own project team?

This can vary based on your own specific project and team members. But, there are a few steps that will help you define your goals and keep your entire team—no matter how big or small—working toward that shared purpose.

1. Involve Your Team in Defining Project Objectives

Could you sit at your own desk, outline the goals and deadlines for the project, and then share those in a team-wide meeting? Sure. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the best way to go about it.

Instead, it’s much better if you can involve your team in setting their own project goals. You can do this through one-on-one chats, team meetings, a survey, or really any other method that you think would be effective for gathering their feedback and suggestions.

By incorporating your team member’s thoughts, opinions, and ideas into the goal-setting process, you’ll instantly increase engagement—which is great news for the success of your project.

Companies and departments who have a higher level of employee involvement in decision making show higher levels of employee motivation and satisfaction,” explains Peter Barron Stark in a post about a decision making.

Additionally, involving your team will lead to more realistic goals. Remember, they’re the ones who are in the trenches and actually rolling up their sleeves to do the work—meaning they have a much more practical grasp on how, why, and how fast things can get done.

Leveraging their knowledge and experience to your advantage will help you outline objectives that are motivating—yet still attainable. After all, setting impossible goals will only discourage and dishearten your team members.

2. Share the Bigger Picture

It’s easy for employees to miss the forest for the trees. Workdays get busy, and we all get so wrapped up in our individual tasks and responsibilities, we often forget to step back and see where this piece fits into the whole puzzle.

It’s up to you to explain how your team’s project goals contribute to the larger business strategy. Your team needs to understand not just the details of your objective, but the meaning behind it. What is this accomplishing for the organization as a whole?

For goals to be meaningful and effective in motivating employees, they must be tied to larger organizational ambitions,” explains Amy Gallo in an article for the Harvard Business Review, “Employees who don’t understand the roles they play in company success are more likely to become disengaged.

3. Be Specific

You’ve likely heard of the SMART goals framework. If so, you know that the “s” in that acronym stands for “specific.” This is a crucial characteristic of effective goals. The more specific you can be, the stronger the understanding of your entire project team.

Unfortunately, it becomes far too easy to rely on totally general goals. Your whole team is operating under the assumption that, “Complete project” is the endgame they should be working toward.

Instead, drill down to the specifics by asking yourself a few key questions. What exactly do you want to achieve? How will you achieve it? Who is responsible for achieving this goal? Are there any limitations you need to be aware of?

Check out this example of a general and a specific goal, and you’ll quickly see the difference:

General Goal: Improve company’s web presence.
Specific Goal: Launch a complete redesign of the existing website in collaboration with the design, development, and marketing teams.

4. Set Metrics

Another key part of the SMART goals framework (I promise, we won’t go through all of the letters!) is that your goal must be measurable. It must be tied to some sort of metric so that your team can monitor their progress and ultimately understand what success looks like.

This can be deceivingly tricky, and many project managers can get tripped up here. But, start by asking yourself this simple and straightforward question: How will you know when your team has been successful? What’s the benchmark there?

How will your team know when they’ve successfully accomplished a goal? [TweetThis]

Once you identify that, you can jot that note down to eventually be included in our overall goal. Sticking with our website redesign example, here’s an example of a measurable goal.

Measurable Goal: We will measure our progress by aiming to redesign a total of three website pages each week.

5. Include a Deadline

Oh, how stress-free life would be if we never had to worry about any deadlines. But, that’s not the way the real world works—your project needs to be done, and it needs to be done by a specific time.

This is why the project goals you set for your team should also have a deadline attached to them so that your members can have an understanding of the required sense of urgency and the timeline you anticipate for the project.

If you fail to establish a firm deadline, prepare for this project to consistently get pushed to the back burner while members address tasks that they assume to be more time-pressing.

When establishing a deadline for your project, remember to lean on the advice and input of your team. As mentioned earlier, they have a much more realistic understanding of how long specific tasks take. So, they’ll be able to inform you if a deadline is far too optimistic—and therefore, out of reach.

Time-Based Goal: The entire website redesign will be completed by January 1, 2018.

6. Frequently Communicate

Think your goal is something that you can just shout at a team meeting once? Think again.

As with any business function, frequent communication is important for keeping that goal top of mind on your project team. “Of the multitude of advice available on goal setting, one point cannot be stressed enough: Regardless of how perfectly outlined and well thought-out your goals are, if they are not effectively communicated, they almost assuredly will fail,” warns Julie Nimmons in a Smart Business blog post.

This means that you can’t just set the goal, let your team members get to work, and then talk about it again once the project has been completed.

You need to communicate frequently in order to keep your finger on the pulse of progress and address any roadblocks that will inevitably crop up.

An easy way to do this is to start each team meeting by dedicating five minutes to discuss progress on the goal, answer any questions, and celebrate achievements and wins that happen along the way.

That will keep your team members focused, and also provide some gratification—which is important, particularly if your goal extends over a long time period.

Over to You

If you involve your team, consider company-wide objectives, and then combine the criteria shared above, you’d end up with a goal that looks something like this:

Launch a complete redesign of the existing website by January 1, 2018, in collaboration with the design, development, and marketing teams. Progress will be measured by redesigning a total of three website pages each week.

See how much more impactful that is?

Those two sentences explain what will be done, who it will be done by, when it will be completed, and how you will monitor progress.

Goal setting can be a bit of an art and a science. But, if you can implement these tips and then frequently communicate with your team, you’re sure to keep everybody on the same page and your project running smoothly. Fingers crossed!

Kat Boogaard

Kat is a freelance writer specializing in career, self-development, and productivity topics. She's passionate about being as efficient and effective as possible—much of which she owes to her 114 words per minute average typing speed. When her fingers aren't flying on the keyboard, she loves to bake, read, hike, or tackle yet another DIY project around her home.

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