The goal of the project, or what we want to achieve by executing the project, must be clear to everyone involved. For the team, the Project Manager, clients, beneficiaries as well as organization’s management. It is the basis for coordinating activities, setting up individual objectives and allocating tasks. It is by the distance of its achievement the status of the project is measured. So how to define the project goal well?

Project goal – table of contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. What is the project goal?
  3. The most common mistakes when formulating the project goal
  4. How to define the project goal?
  5. Summary


The project goal includes many smaller objectives and milestones. It overrides them all in answering the question “What do we do?”. So what should be included in an apt formulation of a project goal to best support a smooth start to implementation?

What is the project goal?

In the seventh edition of the PMBOK, the project goal is defined as:

“Something towards which actions are directed a strategic position, a goal to achieved, a result to be worked out, a product produced or a service provided.”

Therefore, the project goal does not have to be material. While the outcome of many projects includes the production of an item, content, or software, it can also include a service or a change in the customer or in the organization itself. A project goal is, for example:

  • Implementation of the process at customer A by the end of December this year
  • Achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025
  • Launch of product B on the European market by the end of January 2023
  • Organization of a C event for 1,000 people next May
  • Optimize expenses and reduce costs by 30% in Company E’s D department
  • Reduce the number of complaints by 10% in the next quarter.

The pursued goal is therefore closely related to the project vision, which indicates the reason for pursuing the goal by answering the questions “why?” and “what for?”.


The most common mistakes when formulating the project goal

One of the most common mistakes that arise when formulating a project goal is to assume that everyone involved “knows what to do”. And as a result, there is no need to formulate a project goal or create related documents. Unfortunately, even if this is true in the first week of project implementation, the goal quickly becomes blurred and the scope of the project expands and changes. Therefore, spontaneous project implementation rarely yields the expected results.

For this reason, the achievement of a business project goal is usually determined not only by project documents but also by KPIs, Key Performance Indicators. These usually relate to the realization of the project budget, the quality of execution and the time spent to complete the project. It is with these that the errors that most often occur in formulating the project objective are related. This is because they concern with the fact that the intended result is not measurable in any of the key aspects. It is not specified in it, for example:

  • How long is the project expected to take?
  • What features does the product have to have for the project to be considered complete?
  • What is the impassable limit of the budget allocated for its implementation?

To prevent such problems from occurring, it is worth using proven techniques to correctly define the purpose of the project.

Read also: Types of projects

How to define the project goal?

One of the techniques most commonly applied to formulate a project goal is SMART, which stands for:

  • S-Specific (Specific) – the goal should be as specific as possible, but it must cover all spheres of activity included in the project
  • M-Measurable – budget, implementation time, number of people involved, and the ability to set objective measures to determine whether the project has been completed are keys to a well-defined project goal
  • A-Achievable (Achievable) – due to unpredictable circumstances, it may always happen that the goal cannot be achieved, but at the time of setting it, it should be perceived as achievable by all stakeholders and the project team
  • R-Realistic (Relevant) – a project goal is realistic if it is achievable with the resources available to the organization, rather than requiring, for example, a hundred specialists that are difficult to find and hire
  • T- Time-bound – the project should have a clearly defined duration and achievement of the intended result.

To see if your project goal meets SMART requirements, try answering the following questions:

  • What will happen when the goal is reached?
  • Does this goal inspire and motivate you?
  • According to your knowledge and experience, is this goal achievable?
  • Can progress toward this goal be tracked and how?
  • When will the expected result appear?


A project goal is an articulated and specific answer to the question “What are we doing?”. Although the results will vary greatly depending on the type of project being implemented, each objective should meet the SMART criteria described above. With an implementation framework, it is possible to plan and also determine whether the project is run as planned.

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Project goal. What is it and how to define it well? | #15 Getting started with project management caroline becker avatar 1background

Author: Caroline Becker

As a Project Manager, Caroline is an expert in finding new methods to design the best workflows and optimize processes. Her organizational skills and ability to work under time pressure make her the best person to turn complicated projects into reality.

The most important questions

  1. Can the goal of the project change during implementation?

    Can the goal of the project change during implementation? No, the goal cannot change after the project started. In special cases, it is possible to modify the KPI, that is, for example, to increase the budget or extend the project time. However, changing the goal involves closing the project and starting a new project.

Getting started with project management:

  1. What is a project?
  2. What is project management?
  3. How to manage projects?
  4. Project management methods
  5. Types of projects
  6. 4 examples of projects
  7. Prioritization of projects
  8. Areas of project activity
  9. Definition of success in project management
  10. Why use project management software?
  11. How to choose the best project management software?
  12. Overview of project management software
  13. Project life cycle
  14. What is the project vision for?
  15. Project goal. What is it and how to define it well?
  16. Project initiation phase - what to pay attention to?
  17. The domain of planning in project management
  18. What is a project schedule and what is it for?
  19. How to use milestones in a project?
  20. Project execution
  21. How to prepare a successful project contingency plan?
  22. Importance of project closure
  23. Project failure. 5 reasons why projects fail
  24. 4Ps of management: project, product, program and portfolio
  25. Most important tasks and responsibilities of the Project Manager
  26. Most useful project manager skills
  27. How to become a project manager?
  28. 5 books every project manager should read
  29. How to set up a project team?
  30. Work breakdown structure - how to delegate work in a project?
  31. How to lead a team during hybrid work?
  32. Challenges project managers face when working with a team
  33. Types of project meetings
  34. Project monitoring. What parameters to watch?
  35. How to write a compelling
  36. How to define the scope of a project and avoid scope creep?
  37. Feasibility study – can we implement this project?
  38. Risk analysis in projects and tools to facilitate it
  39. How to create a project charter?
  40. What is a stakeholder register?
  41. Gantt chart in project management planning
  42. How to create a project budget?
  43. Time management in project
  44. How to create a project risk register?
  45. Project risk management strategies
  46. Project marketing
  47. Sources and areas of change in the project
  48. Project management change models
  49. What's after Agile? Methods in project management