The difference between Goals vs. Objectives, & how to use them correctly

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

The old adage still stands, and it’s nowhere as applicable as it is in project management.

No matter if you’re an occasional or a first-time project manager, you can probably gauge the importance of identifying your goals when you first set out to work on a project.

But while we’re on the topic of goals, there’s also something called objectives.

Often, the two are used interchangeably, but they’re not interchangeable at all.

So today, we’re going to show you everything you need to know about project goals and objectives, and how to use them to make your project a resounding success.

Let’s dive in!

What Are Project Goals?

Let’s say your project is a marketing campaign.

Your goal is to create a marketing campaign, execute it, and make sure it’s successful.

This doesn’t tell you a lot about how to actually do it. Instead, it’s a vague idea of what you want to achieve.

Similarly, we can define project goals as visions for what you want to achieve with your project.

If you’re building an app for your client, your goal is to create a functional app for the purpose you’ve initially outlined.

Your goals give you direction.

What they do not give you is a roadmap to success. That’s something our other friend, project objectives, takes care of…

What Are Project Objectives?

On the other side of the equation, we have project objectives.

Once you’ve outlined your vision and purpose with goals, it’s time to get to work.

In that sense, goals are your destination. Objectives are the maps you need to get there.

For example, if you’re working on a marketing campaign, your objectives would be all those necessary tasks that push you toward achieving your goal:

  • Perform audience research
  • Come up with ads
  • Pick the right channels
  • Start the campaign
  • Monitor the campaign.

And so on.

According to the definition, project goals are all the tasks, strategies, and tactics that you need to implement in order to reach your goals.

Your objectives are your roadmap to success.

Why Do You Need Project Objectives?

Aren’t goals enough?

Well, not really.

As the team at HubSpot explains, it’s much easier to achieve your goals if you and your team know what needs to be done in order to do so.

And when you’re working on a project, your team needs to know what you expect from them.

Goals vs. Objectives: What’s the Difference?

Goals give you long-term vision and mission, but objectives help you take the necessary steps in the short term.

Goals are also normally short statements such as: “We want to build an online banking app.”

On the other hand, objectives create a to-do list that answers the question: “What do we need to do to build that app?”

  • We need to build the back-end infrastructure
  • We have to create a good user experience
  • Must test the app.

And so on.

Depending on your project scope, objectives can also be related to a part of that project.

For example, if you’re completely digitalizing your company, your goal would be digitalizing it to improve efficiency.

But your objectives could be specific for different departments and processes that need to be digitalized.

Source: Fit Small Business

And most importantly, objectives have to follow the SMART goal-setting method.

Every objective has to be:

This is where specification comes into play.

If your objectives are too broad, your team might get lost.

Best case scenario, no one will feel like those objectives are specific to their work, and they’ll just ignore them or perceive them as vague suggestions.

Going back to our digitalization example, let’s say you’re modernizing both the accounting and the legal departments.

But instead of vaguely saying that both have to digitalize their departments, you can say:

Legal should upload documents and improve digital processes by 10% by the end of the month.

Accounting should improve accounting software user adoption by 50% by the end of the month.

This way, the objectives are specific to each department, and they acknowledge each department’s unique challenges and responsibilities.

Ultimately, they contribute to the same goal (digitalization), but create a roadmap for each department to follow.

So at the end of the day, you need both goals and objectives. But don’t worry — implementing them for your project doesn’t have to be hard!

Originally published at

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