Heagney (2012) defines that the role of a project manager is to “ensure that

desired organizational objectives are met” in chapter 3 of his book (p.33). A very critical
and often overlooked portion in project management is clearly defining what those
goals and objectives are. In this essay, I will define and comment on methods to
effectively develop goals and objectives in a project so as to ensure that the project
team is all working towards the same ends, the project manager can measure progress
towards such ends and the project team can accurately evaluate itself upon project
closeout.
There is often more than one reason a project is undertaken and so long as
project teams continue to be made up of diverse individuals, agreement upon a
common goal or agreeing upon the hierarchy of specific objectives is unlikely. That is
one chief reason why a project manager must step in and, even though project mean
members may treat the exercise as an equivalent to pulling teeth, force the project
team to communicate- preferably in the form of a face to face meeting- with each other
about goals and values for the project.
I am not saying that project team members view setting goals and objectives as
bad, however. It is merely an observance both from my experience, classroom
discussions and our textbook that team members often take for granted that they all
perceive the problem the project was intended to remedy in the same way. I see this
often in my job as a debate coach. There are many ways to respond to an argument and
if I cannot get my team to clearly define and understand what way they want to pool
their resources, I may have four very different and maybe even mutually exclusive
strategies and preparation materials. This can be the case in projects leading to costly
and schedule-upsetting rework.
That is why the first step in a proper method of setting goals and objectives, as
described in chapter 4 of Heagney’s (2012) text is to define the problem (p.45-46). It is
often that people, especially if they are unarmed with formal project management
knowledge, define a problem in terms of a solution. One simple scenario that I observed
is when there was a partial power grid failure outside of target field where MetroTransit
has cashiers stationed to print and sell tickets for its different modes of transportation.
They all identified the problem in terms of solutions to turn the power back on when
really their problem was that they simply needed a way to sell tickets. One solution was
to print the tickets elsewhere and have these tickets be delivered to the cashiers who
could still handle the payment side of selling tickets without electricity.
Heagney (2012) identifies the next step after a project manager has identified
the problem is to eliminate a confusion of terms (p.46-47). This, for me, is really just a
sub-stage in vision and mission statement development. A helpful way to avoid the
confusion of terms is to start by identifying the criterion or criteria by which the project
team will evaluate the completion of the project. These will comprise the majority of the
group’s vision as it lays the guiding philosophy behind the project as a whole. Then,
identify the terms of successful project completion and sort them into a graphic
organizer of “must-haves”, “wants” and “nice-to-haves”. Then use that graphic
organizer to develop a concise and specific mission statement that expresses the what,
achieving all of the “must-haves” and as many from the “wants” and “nice-to-haves”
categories as possible, and identifies for whom the project is being completed for.
Now that the mission and vision have been decided upon, draft SMART (specific,
measurable, attainable, realistic, and time limited) goals for the project. It is important
to note that all five characteristics of a SMART goal must be present for this to be
effective. In my work experience I have had projects assigned where I understood the
“what” and the “for whom” but did not have smart bounded goals and this resulted in
many issues.
The greatest issue with this is that it creates a sense of vagueness and
unaccountability. In my project work I had to report to a project manager who I had to
send weekly status updates to and had a meeting with every two weeks. I can only now
imagine the frustration of that project manager, as my goals were often not time
bounded or very specific. As a technical member of the team, one often does not
express in status updates or progress meetings each of the five facets of a SMART goal
because she may feel as though some parts of the goal or her progress towards that
goal may be implied. However, everyone else may not have the same thought process
when it comes to measuring progress towards a goal as she may and they require the
elaboration of the parts that would otherwise seem to be ok to leave out.
How does this method actually help the manager carry out her job to “ensure
that desired organizational objectives are met”? That question can be answered by
looking back to chapter three in the text again. Heagney (2012) argues that this is
accomplished through exercising control measures over scarce resources (p.33). This
brings about the question: “How ought a project manager exercise control measures
over scarce resources?” I contend that the use of a clearly defined mission and vision
statement that are used to create clear SMART goals set up a clear goal or end state for
which to track progress. But, again, it is very important to note that this is only sure to
be true if all five characteristics of such a goal are defined. A project manager cannot
evaluate progress towards a goal if the goal is not time bounded. The same is true if a
goal is not measurable and definitely true if the goal is unattainable.
A project manager can exercise appropriate control measures on a project if the
objectives meet all criteria to be considered a SMART goal, as progress toward each of
the five constituent parts is often quantitative and clear. It is also much easier to identify
what control measure is the appropriate action because it can be identified which of the
five facets a task, phase, or milestone has fallen behind on.
If project teams utilize these tools in the early stages of a project, it will also
streamline, simplify, and make quicker work of the final phase of the project in which
the team will evaluate its performance and dictate lessons learned. Again, this is due to
the level of clarity in evaluation that SMART goals create. One can identify lessons
learned if a particular part of one or a set of goals was consistently behind or ahead.



Works Cited:

Heagney, J. (2012). Fundamentals of project management (4th ed.).
New York: American Management Association.