Space cover image
Feb 5, 2024

How to define project goals and What to avoid

Starting a new project is always exciting. Or at least it should be, if you know exactly why you started it in the first place and what you are supposed to achieve as a result of it. That’s what is defined by a project goal. Jump starting a new project without a clear and achievable goal in mind (and obviously written down!), chances are you are going to be flushing your budget down the toilet.

In fact, the PMI’s Pulse of the Profession survey found that a lack of clearly defined goals and milestones to measure progress is the most common factor (37%) behind project failure. Which brings us to discussing what exactly project goals are, how to set them the right way and what you should watch out for in the goal-setting process.

What are project goals?

Company leaders typically start new projects because they are looking to improve something – products, services, processes, etc. – in order to achieve better outcomes. Yes, we all know the “If something is already working well, don’t try to change it or improve it” approach, but that’s mostly not the case for the companies striving for excellence and bigger success. 

So, a project goal is basically the desired outcome you expect to achieve with your project. It’s a high-level statement that provides the context around the direction your business is heading to and what the project is supposed to accomplish (read ‘improve’). A project goal supports your company’s larger goals and the overall company vision. 

Since defining project goals comes down to making the right decisions at the right time, you should consider investing in AI software for project management. AI-powered project management solutions allow you to harness the power of AI and shape your resources around essential business strategies that could lead to the desired outcomes.

What is the difference between project goals and project objectives?

Aren’t project goals and project objectives the same, you may ask? Well, not exactly. The difference between project goals and project objectives might seem subtle and insignificant, not to mention that most people tend to use the two terms interchangeably. Yet, there’s a difference between them, if you look at the two concepts in more detail. 

In a nutshell, a project goal is the ultimate destination of the project, while the objective is the project roadmap that makes it clear to a project manager (and everyone on the team, of course) how you can achieve that goal. Objectives are set to be reached within a shorter time frame, usually a quarter. 

To eliminate confusion and ensure every teammate knows exactly what to do, we recommend tapping into the most advanced AI task management apps to find the best AI task manager for your project needs.


Let’s take a closer look at how project goals and project objectives differ: 

Project Goals

Project Objectives

Project goals are broad, high-level statements that describe what the project is aiming to achieve

Project objectives are lower-level, specific statements that describe tangible and measurable deliverables of the project

A project goal articulates the WHAT of your project

A project objective envisions HOW the goal will be accomplished

Project goals are typically set for the long term

Project objectives are time-bound and set for the short term

A project goal should be aligned with the overall business goals

A project objective should be aligned with the project goal

Benefits of setting project goals

Now that you (hopefully) understand what project goals are and how they differ from project objectives, let’s jump right in to discuss the benefits of setting project goals. Why do project managers set goals prior to launching new projects? How does it relate to project success or failure?



Goals set direction and clarify expectations

Think about a complex project that involves a large team (like a few hundreds of people) – how does everyone know what is expected of them, where the project is heading to and what outcomes are associated with the project? With a well-thought-out and clearly outlined project goal that is further broken down into specific objectives and action steps, each team member has a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished and how project success will be measured. 

Goals keep everyone focused and motivated 


With no clarity on a project goal, you can easily lose focus. When the goal is defined and communicated, it helps direct the team’s efforts and keep team members focused on completing critical tasks, which in turn improves team’s efficiency and productivity. And just like setting personal goals, setting project goals (especially if that’s a challenging goal) – motivates the project team to keep going towards goal accomplishment throughout the project life cycle. 

Goals keep team members aligned

When you set a clear project goal, you ensure everyone on your team is on the same page even though they are working on different aspects of a project. Project managers use goals to synchronize team members and ensure each one is working towards goal achievement and is committed to contribute to the common vision. That ensures the project runs smoothly and improves cross-functional communication.

How to set goals for a project


According to the KPMG Project Management Survey only 33% of organizations deliver projects that are likely to meet their original goals. If you want to be among those (who doesn’t?), it’s really important to know how to set project goals and hit your targets.

So how do you actually set a perfect project goal?

Well, first of all, there are no perfect goals, the idea is simply to set an achievable project goal that will drive meaningful business outcomes. 


Connect project goals to bigger business goals

When formulating your project goal, make sure it goes in line with your company’s broader business goals and vision. Thus, your project goal should be tied to a higher-level company goal such as boosting sales, increasing profitability, maximizing ROI, cutting costs, improving business processes, etc. 

Get the whole team involved in the goal-setting process


While you are setting your project goal and outlining the project scope, it’s critical to get everyone involved in the discussion, including a project owner, project stakeholders, a project manager and other team members. The more everyone is involved in the goal-setting process, the more committed they will be towards achieving that goal. 

Getting your team involved in setting project goals doesn’t have to be a complicated or tedious process. With the best AI scheduling assistant, you can schedule team meetings according to your needs, track daily, weekly, and monthly project-related tasks, monitor project progress, and access task lists from anywhere, anytime.

Refine your goals using the SMART framework

By formulating your project goals and objectives using the SMART methodology, you are taking a more structured approach to goal setting.

SMART goals/ objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic (commonly referred to as ‘Relevant’) and Time-bound. If you manage to define these parameters and include them into your project goal statement and objectives, you get much better chances for the goal to be achieved. 

  • Specific: the goal should clearly define what you are aiming to achieve.

  • Measurable: the goal should outline tangible results that can be measured.

  • Achievable: the goal should be within your reach.

  • Realistic: the goal should be attainable with your available resources. 

  • Time-bound: the goal should be achievable within a certain timeframe. 

What to pay attention to when setting project goals


Following the basic principles of the goal-setting process, let’s now walk through the reasons why your goals may fail (and you definitely don’t want that). So, what are some of the most common goal-setting mistakes to avoid?

There are basically 2 major pitfalls you should pay attention to when setting project goals:

Setting unrealistic project goals

If you’re setting a personal goal ‘to become a fluent Spanish speaker by the end of next month’ – that’s (unfortunately) unlikely to happen if you’re currently at A1 level. A much more realistic goal would be ‘to reach B1 level by the end of the year’. The same is true for business goals and project management goals. Especially if you’re setting an ambitious project goal with limited resources – make sure it’s realistic and attainable within your capabilities. 

Confusing output with the outcome

Another common mistake many project managers make when defining project goals is confusing outputs with outcomes.

The outcomes are what your project is supposed to achieve.

The outputs are activities that contribute to achieving your desired outcome.

If ‘launching a new marketing campaign’ is an output – ‘increasing the number of MQLs through marketing campaigns’ is an outcome. Always have an outcome in mind when crafting your project goals. 

7 Examples of project goals (with objectives)

  1. Goal: Increase conversions and sales through a mobile app

Objective: Build a mobile app for our business to increase conversions and grow online sales across all product categories by 30% in the next 6 months.

  1. Goal: Grow revenue across all markets by launching new products

Objective: Launch [product/ service] on the US market to increase total revenue by 20% across all markets by the end of Q4.

  1. Goal: Improve customer satisfaction and CX by implementing a new help desk

Objective: Implement a new help desk software system to deliver a better omnichannel customer communication and improve customer satisfaction by 50% in Q3.

  1. Goal: Increase CLV and improve customer retention through a loyalty program

Objective: Develop and introduce a customer loyalty program to improve customer lifetime value and increase customer retention rate by 10%.

  1. Goal: Improve employee retention through a new employee onboarding program

Objective: Implement a new employee onboarding program to maximize new hire productivity and improve employee retention rate by 30% by the end of Q3. 

  1. Goal: Reduce support costs by enabling a customer self-service portal

Objective: Build a customer self-service portal with a knowledge base to reduce the number of incoming support requests and cut down on support costs by 20% in the next 6 months. 

  1. Goal: Improve our lead generation process through lead generation software

Objective: Automate and optimize our lead generation process to increase the number and the quality of inbound leads by implementing lead generation software by Q2.

Setting and managing goals for projects

How can you set and manage your project goals efficiently? This is where project management software such as Ayanza comes into play. With Ayanza, which uses a simplified agile methodology, you can easily set project goals, manage tasks, review progress and degree of accomplishment in an effortless, convenient and transparent way – all from a single dashboard. 


You can also set and comfortably manage quarterly OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) within different teams while seeing the progress in real-time. That helps achieve better cross-team collaboration and alignment (since each department’s OKRs are visible and accessible by everyone), improve communication, employee engagement and productivity. It’s a win-win for both managers and team members, isn’t it?


Every successful project starts with a vision refined into a specific, measurable goal. Setting accurate, achievable, realistic and outcome-based project goals provides a clear roadmap for your team to follow in order to achieve those goals within the given timeframe. Project managers and team leaders can do it much more efficiently by using the right project management tool like Ayanza to ensure the whole process is easily manageable, collaborative and transparent. 


Why are goals important for a project?

Having a well-defined project goal is the first and the most important step in successful project execution. Goals give a clear direction to every team member, clarify project expectations (so everyone knows what outcomes are supposed to be achieved by the end of the project), keep team members aligned, focused and motivated. 

How can you ensure that your project goals are realistic and achievable?

Achievable and realistic goals are attainable given the available resources (time, technology, skills and budget). An achievable goal is also something that is measurable. You can ensure the goal is realistic and achievable by establishing a project timeline that can help you determine the scope of required tasks and how much time is needed for each task to be completed.

What is an example of a project goal statement?

Say, if one of your higher-level company goals is to increase the revenue for your business, you can split that goal into smaller and more specific project goals. For that particular case, an example of a good project goal statement would be something like ‘Increase our sales by building a new ecommerce website by the end of the year.’