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SMART goals, and Project goals vs. impact goals as a basis for understanding different aspects of project success and failure.
A hand holding a dart over the bullseye of a target projected on a surface.
© Luleå University of Technology

Overall, project management is about obtaining goals in an uncertain environment, with the purpose to create value.

Everyone in the project organization must have a common understanding of the goal formulation, a prerequisite for managing the project in the same direction. A way to specify the goal formulation is to use the S.M.A.R.T-principle, meaning a goal has to be:

  • specific, i.e. focus on a specific area for improvement
  • measurable, i.e. be able to quantify or/and followed-up by means of some indicators
  • accepted, i.e. accepted by the ones that are involved to obtain the goal
  • realistic, i.e. be achievable given available resource and time constraints
  • time-set, i.e. have a specific time limit when the goal should be obtained.

Goals have to be SMART, otherwise, project stakeholders can have different views of what to accomplish, and it will be difficult to follow up project process concerning goal fulfilment. Some projects express high ambitions and challenges, in in order to create motivation. However, unrealistic goals or expectations that are too high can result in the opposite, reduced motivation for participants In sum, diffuse goals make plan and planning diffuse, i.e. not a reference point and roadmap for the project team.

© Luleå University of Technology
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Plan for Project Success: Project Planning and Management:

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