March 26, 2019

3 expert tips on how you should define your project goals SMART

Can you imagine a marathon whose length and endpoint are unknown? Probably not. That's exactly why project goals are needed. How they are formulated correctly and why the right self-assessment is not only crucial in sports, read on here.

Gerald Aquila

Gerald Aquila

386 words • 4 minutes

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A project goal describes the desired state that should occur after a project has been executed.

Project goals facilitate the planning and setting of milestones. They serve as a benchmark for success in project acceptance. And last but not least, they have a motivating effect on the project team, helping to clearly distribute tasks and structure processes without any uncertainties.

Project Goals Formulated Correctly Meet the SMART Criteria:


Specific – The goal is formulated in a specific way.

Measurable – The achievement or non-achievement of the goal must be quantifiable.

Attainable – The goal must also be achievable under given conditions.

Relevant – The project team must be convinced of the goal.

Time-bound – The project goal must have a deadline or defined end.

Detailed information about the SMART criteria

In addition, there is more flexibility in the project if the project goals are formulated in a solution-neutral way. This means that while they describe "what", they do not make any prescriptions about "how".

Non-goals of a Project

Also, the definition of non-goals that should not be achieved by the project or may not be achieved under any circumstances, can be helpful in order to draw objective boundaries to the project content. It will make it easier for the project team to stay focused.

Why Project Goals Cannot Be Realized

The Incorrect Assessment Problem

An incorrect or inaccurate assessment of the actual state is often the reason why goals that sound quite feasible cannot be realized.

Often, ambitious project goals are set, but the own starting position is assessed unrealistically. The more precise and clear the starting situation is defined, the more realistic the project goals - and the planning of time and resources.


Whoever defines project goals should, above all, remain true to them. Imagine, the route of a marathon would be adapted while the runners are already on the way. That would not only cause great confusion, but also make it impossible to adequately prepare and optimally use one's own resources.

To conclude: You really should define your project goals SMART.

Relevant Project Management Terms

Planning / Project Planning  

Project planning is one of the most important components of project management. It is part of the four phases of traditional project management (initiation, planning, control, completion) and also occupies an important but more flexible place in agile project management.

Project Objective / Project Goal  

A project objective describes the desired target state after the implementation of a project. Project objectives should be formulated in a specific, measurable, accepted, realistic and scheduled (SMART criteria) way. They facilitate the planning and performance measurement of projects.