When setting goals related to project management, there are a number of questions a project manager should ask him or herself. The first and most important of these would be: what is the goal of the project? This seems simple, and yet, it can have a quite detailed response beyond an easy answer such as “the goal of the project is for it to be a success.” How is success defined? And what can the project manager to in setting goals for the team that will help ensure success?

In order to set along a path of best practices in project management goal setting, the project manager should first determine if the goals can be measured. Tangible forms of measurement include deliverables, level of effort, project schedules, and so on. These should be listed out and divided between those that are quantifiable and those that are not, because different metrics will be used for each type of goal. The only way to determine if goals are being achieved is of course to measure those against the metrics that have been put into place, and so each measure should have an accompanying metric against which it can be judged.

Once goals and metrics have been established, a way to monitor and manage these goals should be put into place. It’s not fair to the team to set the goals and then give them free rein to charge ahead without any form of interim monitoring or management. And that’s the job of the project manager, to make sure that team members are comfortable with what they’re trying to achieve, and have been given the tools with which they can then achieve those goals.

Within this management of the goals, there should also be some leeway for exceptions. What is the contingency plan if things are not going according to plan? Is the task or goal on a critical path, meaning does it need to be accomplished before something else can be done? Are there dependencies between tasks and goals? Again, this is the role of the project manager, to determine where these inter-dependencies are and how they can be accounted for, managed, and circumvented if need be, without derailing the entire project.

A final question for the goal-setting project manager
– are the goals achievable? Many a project manager or higher-up has set unattainable goals for a team, perhaps thinking that if the project team makes it 75% of the way there, then that’s sufficient. Aim for the impossible, and be satisfied with the result, perhaps with the thought that this arrangement will spur the team on to greater efforts. The fact is that it can often lead to discouragement instead, and so this kind of psychological tactic should be avoided. Make those goals truly achievable, and your team will respond in kind.

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