If you’ve got a problem project where everyone seems to be working in different directions, there could be few things going wrong. The first thing to ensure is that the desired outcome of the project is clearly stated. (See my article Fixing Problem Projects – Part 1 for more on defining outcomes.) The next thing to confirm is that the team knows exactly what they are going to achieve to make that outcome happen.

What’s the What?

If the outcome is where the team is going, the objective is WHAT they’re going to accomplish to get there.

  • Each objective represents a major component of the outcome. When all the objectives are achieved, the outcome will be realized.
  • An objective should be stated in precise and measurable terms so that everyone understands the tangible results that will be seen, held, or counted when the work is complete.

Each objective for the project should directly align with one part of the outcome statement.

  • Sample outcome: In the end, we will improve customers’ experience with our service department through friendly engagement, faster response time, and reliable information.
  • One objective for that outcome: Reduce the average wait time for phone customers to less than 4 minutes by January 1. 

Defining the What

A simple approach to make it measurable is to define each objective in terms of

  • what will be done (e.g., decrease customers’ call wait time),
  • when that will be done (e.g., by January 1), and
  • how much needs to get done (e.g., reduce average call time to <4 minutes).

Depending on the situation, you can also add “where” and “who will be affected” to the definition.

When everyone is aiming at precisely the same thing, the team will be more successful in reaching it. And, if it is clear that each of the objectives directly contributes to the outcome of the project, then everyone can move forward with more confidence.

So, you may ask, if we have the outcome and the objective clearly defined, HOW do we actually get there? That’s next! Fixing Problem Projects Part III is all about identifying the best strategies to achieve the objectives.