It’s January and the time of year where people turn to think about what is going to be their personal and professional focus for the next 12 months. While we might think that, the actual process of writing objectives can be quite difficult, and it can be hard to work out exactly what makes a good objective.

On top of that, project work is very flexible and objectives can change mid-way through the year, making anything you decide this month a bit pointless. Ideally, you will work with your manager to come up with objectives that will have some degree of longevity and will see you through until December, but try to set your objectives with half an eye on the fact that you may have to change them later on if your project work dictates it.

While you going through the thought process of deciding on objectives, here are 3 categories that objectives can fall into – they may give you a framework for setting your own objectives, or those of your project team members.


Objective 1: How is my company doing?

Company's project objectives

Objectives that fall into this category tend to be things like corporate financial targets. For example, staff bonuses may not be paid until the company reaches a particular threshold against the financial plan. There is not much you as an individual project manager or project team member can do to influence these, but you should be aware of any targets and objectives set at this level.

If your bonus, pay review or other benefit depends on company performance, remember to ask your manager for regular updates throughout the year. You may get these anyway through a company newsletter, but if not, don’t be afraid to talk to your senior colleagues about how the firm is doing.


Objective 2: How is my unit doing?

You may have joint objectives as a business unit or department. These could be for the whole Project Management Office, or if you report into a business division, for that division only. Typical objectives for a business unit could be things like:

- Customer satisfaction targets

- Staff satisfaction targets

- Measures from the PMO dashboard, such as the percentage of projects delivered on time

- Keeping to the departmental budget

- Number of project managers trained, or training days carried out


These types of objectives are again difficult to influence on a purely individual level, but you should be able to see how your work directly links to achieving these targets.

Unfortunately, some objectives at this level can be meaningless. In the examples above, the percentage of projects delivered on time is not a great objective. It is too easy to manipulate the figures, and what does ‘on time’ mean anyway? Does it refer to the original date that the sponsor thought would be achievable before the plan was properly put together? Or the last baselined schedule? Or does it allow for a degree of tolerance, and if so, how much?

If the team of project managers know that this is a target, your PMO could find themselves inundated with last-minute change requests at the end of the year as people try to make their latest delivery forecasts or dates the ‘official’ ones so as not to jeopardise reaching this departmental target. So if you do have any say about the department targets that are set for you and your team, be careful about what you choose.


Objective 3: How am I doing?

Personal performance objectives

The objectives that relate to personal performance are the ones that are the easiest to influence. At a managerial level, such as in the role of project or programme manager, you could also find that your personal targets reflect those of the team. For example, you could have objectives along these lines:


- Ensure that the project is delivered to the approved budget of £80,000.

- Be responsible for all the training carried out for the new software for 150 delegates in Marketing and Sales.

- Successfully deliver Project Deliverable A, B and C.

Of course, you won’t personally do all the work relating to these. Take the second objective on this list. It is highly unlikely that you will personally organise training facilities, and deliver all the training yourself.

Your project coordinator or someone from the company training department could manage all the logistics of the training, such as sending out joining instructions, booking meeting rooms and organising any other equipment like projectors and flip charts. You may also have a project Training Manager who could arrange for the trainers. However, overall, as project manager, you are responsible for overseeing all the work even if you don’t actually do it all yourself.