Objectives must support the project goal’s mission. Interviews set the tone for what is coming down the pipeline with your project. You must acquire correct information in a thorough interview in order to establish relevant objectives to meet the goal of the project. Sometimes you must ask hard questions to discuss the bottom line. Remember, you are in charge of asking questions, and if you are not obtaining beneficial information or if you simply do not understand, you need to rephrase the question. Sometimes it is even good to ask, “What would be good to know about this project that I have not asked you?” The customer will expose extra information that is almost always helpful.
Objectives must have some way of being measured. Evaluate your project’s core objectives; make sure they can be measured for completion. Often, objectives will focus on improvements but with little specifics for measuring progress. It is human nature to want to see success. Do not set your team up for failure with objectives which are too large or unclear. These can not be measured and will only cause frustration and ultimately hurt morale for future projects.
Objectives must have a deadline set for achievement. Don’t just throw out a time or date. If you are just picking a date from the air, then you are doing nothing any different from those who create a project plan without information. Make sure you take into account all the issues the project and the project team are facing. Many objectives will have only a brief statement while others will be numbered with detailed sub points.
Objectives give team members authority. Authority can be defined as the power, right, and stamp of approval to make decisions. By making an assignment to a particular person, it will become a high priority. Do not be afraid to give people a milestone or a series of tasks which all support a larger piece of the project. By delegating pieces of the project, it is easier for individuals to control and advance the project. Remember, though, people need authority to run their portion of the project. Authority demonstrates trust in that person and gives the freedom to make a certain range of decisions.
Objectives need to be documented. Documentation will keep you and your team focused on the project. Documentation will help clarify where you have been and in what future direction you are headed. Yet, documentation seems to be one of the weakest areas on all project teams. We often close out a project with little or no documentation, and we have no new ideas, processes, or best practices to pass on except what we have kept logged in our memory. Sometimes, we even pitch our project notes taken during meetings throughout the project. Yes, it is important to document all projects and maintain a register of what has been discovered throughout the project. This type of documentation is invaluable for the future establishing of project best practices.
Objectives drive the project forward. As you have meetings and discuss objectives and deliverables, you need to make sure you are driving the project forward. This is accomplished best by making sure you have action plans and assignments throughout the project. This should include specific actions steps and detailed implementation plans. You also must decide how you will measure each objective or deliverable. This forces you to create progress indicators throughout the project for measuring. Gantt charts, time charts and critical path charts can help measure the progress of the project.
Dr. Keith Mathis, founder and CEO of The Mathis Group, specializes in Project Management, Management Leadership, and Marketing training for private businesses and government agencies of all kinds. He offers 33 Project Management courses, is a Project Management Professional, is certified by the Project Management Institute and will customize every training session to your individual company’s needs. The Mathis Group also sponsors www.pmexpertlive.com, which is a powerful project management resource with free reports, podcasts, videos, and a monthly newsletter. He also offers customized management training and coaching on any subject with prolific communication and professionalism.