Goals vs. objectives: A project manager’s breakdown

Team Asana contributor imageTeam AsanaDecember 1st, 20214 min read
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Summary

A goal is an achievable outcome that is generally broad and long-term while an objective defines measurable actions to achieve the overall goal. Find out the real differences between the two to inform your team’s strategy.

When it comes to leading a team, setting goals and objectives helps you achieve your desired results. From large business goals to small daily objectives, these methods help set your team apart from the competition. 

While both are important, goals and objectives differ when it comes to the specific actions you should take. It’s essential to understand how to incorporate both within your project portfolio to accomplish big picture plans. 

We’ll go over the major differences between a goal vs. objective, techniques for each, and cover how to incorporate them into your daily routine. 

What is a goal vs. objective?

A goal is an achievable outcome that is generally broad and longer term while an objective is shorter term and defines measurable actions to achieve an overall goal. 

What is a goal vs. objective?

While different, the two terms are often used in unison when working on a project. This is because both are essential to planning and executing a project. Both create measurable steps to reach the desired outcome. These include key performance indicators (KPIs), objectives and key results (OKRs), or any other detailed result you’d like to achieve. 

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Types of goals

There are three main types of goals: time-bound, outcome-oriented, and process-oriented goals. 

Each type of goal focuses on separate priorities and leads to a different type of end result. In some cases, such as process updates with a tight turnaround time, a goal may incorporate all three types. 

Regardless of the type of goal you set, always ensure it is SMART. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound. These characteristics help create defined and attainable goals.

Time-bound goals

Time-bound goals are focused on setting timely actions. This means they are driven by deadlines and target dates. They provide a high-level explanation for what your team should be striving toward.

To be time-bound, a goal must be connected to a specific timeline. Generally, these are long-term, actionable deadlines that connect to a business plan. This type of goal helps teams execute high priority, time sensitive actions. 

Best for: Teams who need to achieve an outcome within a set timeframe.

Outcome-oriented goals

Outcome-oriented goals are focused on the end result. Rather than focusing on specific deadlines, outcome-oriented goals look to accomplish the action above all else.

These goals may result in deadlines being pushed back if needed in order to achieve the desired outcome at the desired quality. They are commonly used for big picture actions and major business milestones such as growth goals and resource allocation plans.

Best for: Teams who need to achieve a specific outcome and can adjust deadlines as needed.

Read: Your guide to getting started with resource management

Process-oriented goals

Process-oriented goals focus on achieving new internal systems and processes. Instead of focusing on a specific outcome, process-oriented goals prioritize the work and how it’s accomplished. 

These goals improve team efficiency by achieving the most effective processes possible. 

Best for: Teams looking to add new processes internally to increase efficiency.

Types of objectives

There are three main types of objectives, each featuring unique perspectives when it comes to completing tasks. 

Strategic objectives, tactical objectives, and operational objectives all play a key role in accomplishing larger goals. Let’s take a look at how each type fits into your plan. 

Strategic objectives

Strategic objectives are purpose-driven and help to create the overall vision of a project. 

Teams use strategic objectives to align deliverables to larger business goals. Strategic objectives ensure team members have a clear project direction and are aligned on the project’s purpose and overall timeline. 

Best for: Teams working to connect objectives to larger business goals

Tactical objectives

Tactical objectives are focused on short-term deliverables and the result of those tasks. 

This type of objective looks at the results of both short-term tasks and long-term goals to inform future decisions rather than strategic insight. 

Best for: Teams working on complex projects with many short-term deliverables. 

Operational objectives

Operational objectives are similar to tactical objectives in that they’re short-term, but differ in that they focus on action-oriented and achievable tasks related to operational goals. 

Operational objectives contribute to daily, weekly, and monthly goals by organizing task schedules and aligning different departments. 

Best for: Large teams who work best in short iterations and prefer detailed instructions. 

Examples of goals and objectives

Since goals and objectives are similar, it can be helpful to see a few examples in action. From growth goals to measurable objectives, there are many scenarios where you’ll need both objectives and goals in place. 

Examples of goals and objectives

When it comes to long-term plans, your ultimate goals should align with your organization’s mission statement and company values. Though these goals are broad initiatives that take place over many months or years, they should still be measurable and actionable, following the SMART goal framework.  Objectives, on the other hand, are specific actions that your team will take within a short time frame. Multiple objectives make up one goal. 

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Below, we’ve put together three examples of objectives and goals to help you better understand how they’re interrelated but very different.

Example 1: Brand goal

In this example, we’ll look at a brand goal that uses milestones

Goal: Launch a new product or service in the next three months that gives back to local organizations and connects to our community brand pillar. 

Objective: Kim to initiate local product research based on customer survey results. 

Both the goal and the objective in this example follow the SMART goal guidelines and possess specific, measurable KPIs.

Example 2: Growth goal

In this example, we’ll look at a growth goal with specific KPIs

Goal: Increase blog conversion rate by 10% in the month of December. 

Objective: Implement an email marketing campaign promoting our new arrivals at a 15% discount for the month of December.

By including specific project deliverables and intended results, both the goal and the objective are easy to understand. It’s also easy to see how they both relate back to a larger company goal. 

Example 3: Efficiency goal

In this example, we’ll look at a goal focused on improving efficiency.

Goal: Reduce manual onboarding errors by 30% in Q4.

Objective: Implement business process automation by the end of Q3 in order to reduce workflow errors by Q4.

Measurable objectives should be included and long-term goals properly defined and planned out. 

Read: Efficiency vs. effectiveness in business: Why your team needs both

How to measure goals and objectives

Measuring goals doesn’t have to be complicated. When you set your goals, ensure they include specific metrics that you can easily measure at any point in the process. 

How to measure goals and objectives

When looking to measure goals and objectives in the workplace, it’s important to measure these key components:

  1. Analyze data points: Data is a great way to gauge whether KPIs are being met. Look at relevant performance metrics such as conversion rate, traffic value, and new users. You may also want to loop certain leaders and business owners in the conversation to ensure transparent communication. 

  2. Measure past performance: In addition to data, review past performance to know whether improvements have been made. This is especially important if your team is working on a process-oriented goal that aims to improve efficiency by updating or adding new internal systems. 

  3. Follow a structure: Plans and structures keep information organized and tasks on track. Structures can include something as simple as weekly team meetings or as thorough as a work breakdown structure to detail individual tasks and dependencies. 

Set objectives to accomplish goals

Both goals and objectives are key to accomplish new business outcomes. You can’t have one without the other, which makes it so important that you implement both correctly within your team. 

From broad goals to specific objectives, with the right strategy, your team can reach new heights. 

If you’re looking for help setting and sticking to goals and objectives, try goal setting software. From analyzing progress to aligning communication, Asana can help.

Try goals with Asana for free

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