Project Manager Goal Setting [Examples Included]

Where do you see yourself in five years? No one likes this question because you can’t think that far ahead. It’s impossible to know what offbeat event is going to happen tomorrow, let alone five years from now, and how this will impact you.

Goals are essential to plan for the future and give you a rational way of charting a path from an identified situation – the now, to what you aspire to be – the ideal. Goal setting for a project manager involves the process and not just the destination. It is the track from point As-Is to point To-Be.

Discover some project manager goal setting examples to protect yourself from project derailment, and ensure great project outcomes.

Benefits of Project Management Goals

For the project manager

Many circumstances can derail your plans. It could be something completely unexpected and out of your control. But in most cases, derailed plans are due to the lack of a clear path for progress. Successful goal-setting includes:

  • Clearly defined goals and budget.
  • Excellent communication both with the team and the stakeholders.
  • Awareness of the limitations of the project scope, to avoid scope creep.
  • Adequate skill sets and training.
  • A range of identified contingencies, or Plan B’s.
  • Good project management tools.

Self-evaluation parallel to organizational evaluation can help determine your project management goals. How do you do it? Set SMART goals. (See below).

For the team

Goal setting benefits the whole team. Communicating clear goals and the progress of the project builds opportunities to give and receive constructive feedback. Goals develop overall group accountability which allows both individual and team growth. Team members can buy into good goal-setting and own their part in delivering good outcomes.

For the project itself

Good project goals are key to successfully achieve project completion. Goals make it easier to deliver projects on time and within budget. The process can be evaluated both during and at the end of the project, leading to a clearer understanding of how goal-setting impacted the process. Each completed project can set the scene for more empowered project goal-setting in the future.

Setting SMART Goals

Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals help in creating a sound goal statement. SMART goals establish a framework that makes goal-setting a breeze, allowing you to cover all aspects of the project. They will help you implement your team’s objectives and gain an overall picture for both low and high-impact projects.

Drill down to the specifics

Generic goals are a no-go if you want to be SMART about it. Knowing exactly what you want to do allows you to push for target tasks that will take you there. If a goal is unclear, then it’s practically impossible to track where you are and to reach your objective on time and within the projected budget.

Make your goals descriptive and detailed. Instead of just saying you want to increase online traffic, being specific means saying you want to increase website traffic by x number of users by x months. Ensure your specific goals are also clearly understood and agreed with stakeholders and by your team.

Make measurable goals

You may feel great about where a project is standing but you may not be 100% sure if you’re on track, or if you have enough resources to complete it. The key ingredient to project management success is to incorporate the necessary metrics. These standards and benchmarks help you evaluate your project. A measurable goal also identifies any necessary adjustments and how much time and resources are needed going forward.

Some simple examples of how to effectively manage your project status are:

  • A list of tasks completed per week, a spreadsheet of the total number of hours billed, and the average number of hours spent on tasks.
  • A time-tracking progress chart that integrates with your project management tool.

Aside from investing in the perfect project management tools, having a project management checklist on hand can help you set measurable goals.

Make goals attainable

Clients often come to the table with nearly impossible targets or decide to add further goals to a project once underway. A project manager’s challenge is to ensure that the project’s goals are attainable and keep an eye on what is feasible and reasonable. Making goals attainable means that you find a way to build in unexpected developments.

For example, you may have a team of four people but one is on vacation, making it challenging to wrap up a huge deal in a week. Have you built in some reserves in terms of resources, or is there an option for extra time? Good project managers build in the ability to adjust their goals to account for the variations that will inevitably hit a project.

Set goals that are relevant

Efficient project leaders will ask the right questions to ensure project goals are relevant. They will have good knowledge of the project and know that goals will be relevant depending on the skill set of the team, the budget, and the timescale.

Re-assessment of goals once a project is underway is also useful so you can check on how relevant they continue to be. Competitive benchmarking and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) may help keep your goals relevant.

Some questions to ask:

  • Is the team size still relevant now the project is underway?
  • Has the market changed, and if it has, how does that affect this project?
  • Have budget considerations changed in the company overall, and how do they affect this project’s goals?

Good project managers recognize the need to continue to analyze and examine goals, adjusting them so they remain relevant.

Give your goals an alarm clock

Always remember that all goals are time-bound. Project goals still abide by the rules of time and space. A project that should have taken six months could turn into eight, nine, even ten if you don’t have a time limit. Understanding that some goals will take longer to reach than others is reasonable, but there is still a timeline to follow.

If you follow an agile project management method like SCRUM  you may find that your project timelines are negatively affected, so you should weigh the pros and cons of your project management approach.

Establishing SMART Project Management Goals

Now that you have an idea of what SMART goals are, It is time to create your own project management goal. Keep in mind that project management goals are more focused on the long-term, and they are executed through comprehensive team involvement too. What are the different areas you should emphasize?

Project objectives

Project objectives are small steps done in order to meet the goal. These are less complicated tasks assigned to smaller groups. The objectives have more tactical immediate changes. This can feel tedious and stressful but it’s an essential first step to ensuring your objectives are aligned with your goals.

Determine if you need to consider more than one objective. You might only need to identify one objective for a project, as SMART goals should be reliable benchmarks and indicators of how close you are to hitting a bullseye on your target. Be careful not to divvy up your goal into more objectives than necessary as this may lead to overthinking, confusion, and frustration.

Hard data

Sometimes you just run the day with gut feel and instinct. A project manager must also take into account the budget and data. Getting involved in statistics and other metrics widens your options and establishes solid evidence of what needs to be changed or improved.

Is the step you’re going to take viable? Will the product, service, or personnel development affect the organization’s financial performance? Let your data do the goal-setting.

Strategy

Be strategic but know your limits. Remember, be SMART! Thinking macro will move you from a daily to-do list to focus on other underdeveloped areas for your product or service. Nowadays, teams are starting to embrace the digital world through virtual-based ways of working.

How will you stay ahead in the field? What are your plans for your organization to be technology-enabled? Software and cloud solutions have become more reliable and more present in project progress. If properly implemented, strategic goals help in the redistribution of valuable resources.

Career development

An engaged team will deliver their best and help your project achieve its goals. One of the best ways to keep your team motivated is to work with them on their individual career goals. Identify their short-term professional goals and long-term career opportunities. What direction is their role going in?  Your own career goals will also motivate you as project manager to dig deep and find what your real aspirations are. Connect where you are right now with what you want to be in the future.

Examples of SMART Goals in Project Management

Development Goals

Development goals follow the basic project management phases of Initiation, Planning and Design, Construction and Execution, Monitoring and Control, Completion and Review. Developmental goals allow you to step back and focus on the big picture. The challenge is to set the bar high and keep it there.

An example of a SMART developmental goal statement related to the planning and design phase would be:

“By June 10, the team will have planned the implementation protocol, completed one pilot trial to field test the protocol they have designed, and be ready to present feedback on any adjustments needed to the protocol to make it successful within the project budget.”

Performance Goals

Performance is often measured through evaluation at the end of the project. Good communication skills during the project will be a great asset in your post-project review. Update and talk regularly with stakeholders, give milestone feedback to your team members. Review your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Assist them to develop not only their technical skills but also their soft skills. This way, you are also developing great leaders. Remember that you’re not the only one with career goals.

An example of a SMART performance goal includes:

“By the end of the year, Chris will have completed in-house training in financial reporting, been supervised on financial reporting for two projects, and be confident in completing the financial reports for the projects he handles.

Yearly Goals

The rise of the challenge in upskilling and reskilling calls for responsive restructure and reorganization.  It’s part of the project manager role to deliver and complete projects by being adaptable.

Yearly goals for project managers include keeping pace with the developing digital world. This develops reputational strength and reliability. Positive word of mouth improves your clients’ and your team’s trust.

Awareness of the latest industry impacts aids in the future direction of your organization. It can shed light on the higher-level financial, business, and profitability effects these sways may bring.

The SMART way to say your project yearly goals could be:

“I will keep on top of the industry trends throughout the year so that my team can maximize opportunities as they arise. I will do this by setting aside half a day each month to keep up-to-date with developments in the industry, in technology, and in training opportunities. I will distill three points from my research into an email to my team each time.”

Project Managers, Are You Ready?

Setting a SMART goal or objective correctly does not require a genius IQ or a Master’s degree. It does take patience and a general understanding of the team, the stakeholders, and the project. When crafting your SMART goals you’ll need to put in some thought and effort. But following through on these project manager goal examples will make it easier for you to lead your project to successful completion.