Have you ever worked on a project team and found you weren’t really sure what the goal of the project was? Leslie and I recently attended a University of California Extension project management class. The instructor, Cheryl Allen, shared an idea that captured my attention: creating a brief project objective statement of twenty-five words or less to help launch the project.

This was an epiphany to me. Everyone on the team needs to understand the goal of the project in simple terms so they can care and be energized. Until this time, I had always insisted on stating clear goals for projects, but I hadn’t gone this extra step and distilled the goal to its essence for the benefit of the team.

A project objective statement should be:

  • SMART (specific, measurable, agreed-upon, realistic, time-based)
  • Short (25 words or less)
  • Energizing (simple, easy to remember)

Here’s an example of a good project objective statement:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.“— President Kennedy, May 25, 1961

The goal (highlighted in bold text) is nineteen words. It’s memorable and audacious, and it inspired a nation.

On the other hand, here’s an example of a weak project objective statement:

“We will demonstrate the viability of the test system to produce increased outputs with minimal effort, thus reducing our dependency on the existing system.”

The goal is vague and overly complex. Are you inspired — or asleep? This is a bit of an exaggeration, but unfortunately many project goals read like this. The only thing this goal has going for it is it’s fewer than twenty-five words. Worse yet, it would likely be the preamble of a much lengthier and arcane goal statement.

Don’t let this happen to your project. Whether you are the project manager or a team member, insist on a brief energizing goal for your next project.

photo credit: NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org

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