Introducing a 3-step framework for writing better project objectives
Introducing a 3-step framework for writing better project objectives. Nothing guarantees the failure of a project faster than misunderstanding the problem you’re trying to solve. However, too often product leaders jump from broad goals to specific project goals without really knowing what they want to achieve.
According to CB Insights, the number one reason most companies fail is a lack of market demand. These companies found some problem areas, But they did not spend their time solving the problem properly.
So what is the solution? There is a famous quote from Albert Einstein that says:
“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
In Einstein’s mind, the quality of your solution has less to do with momentary insight and more to do with your ability to deeply understand your problem.
Many experienced project managers take writing project objectives for granted. But it doesn’t matter if you’ve written a great set of actionable goals if you’re not solving the right problem. You will be setting your project up for failure from the start.
This guide covers how to write better project objectives and solve real, impactful problems.
What are project goals and how are they different from goals, milestones, and OKRs?
Project Objectives are the desired results of a project. Goals should be specific, measurable, time-bound, and most importantly, achievable. Project goals can include specific assets and deliverables (like a finished app or a redesigned homepage) or something a little more intangible (like increasing team productivity).
This definition may make goals very similar to goals. However, there are differences that make project goals unique and essential to your planning process.
While project goals can be high-level and offer multiple paths to success, project goals are specific and specific. Here is an example to illustrate the difference:
Example project goal: Make it easier to add team members to new user accounts.
Example project goal: In the next sprint cycle, add five new team invitation touchpoints to the adoption campaign.
Similar nuances exist between project goals and milestones (which are sets of tasks that mark progress on a project’s timeline) and OKRs (larger goals that guide your team or company for a season or a year).
Effective project goals describe what you’re going to build to achieve your most immediate goals, how you’ll measure success, and when you need to complete those tasks.
Consider this: your aspirations are a map, while goals act as step-by-step directions that will lead you to your destination. But to get that level of detail, you need to define the right goals. This is where most project managers recommend following the SMART framework.
The SMART framework describes the ideal characteristics of project goals as follows:
Specific: Do you know exactly what you need to build?
Measurable: Do you have meaningful metrics that will tell you whether you have been successful or not? Do you trust those metrics?
Achievable: Can you achieve this goal with the available timeline, budget, and resources?
Relevant: Is the goal important? Does it help you get closer to your overall goal or enhance the company’s vision?
Time-bound: Do you know when you have to complete your goal?
Now let’s break down the first example again to show how a goal can be SMART:
“In the next (time-bound and achievable) sprint cycle, add five (measurable) new (relevant) team invitation touchpoints to the (specific) adoption campaign.”
A project goal like this not only tells you if you’re on the right track but also gives you a measure of success so you know when you’re done.
How to find the right problem and write better project objectives in 3 steps
It’s not always easy to dig deeper into problem-solving. However, with a few small steps, you can quickly and clearly define a problem statement that guides your goals, aspirations, and decisions.
1- Write your problem statement.
If you already have a goal, you’ve effectively created an opportunity to pursue it. Through data, user interviews, and experience, you believe that if you build a feature or change user behavior, it will help you achieve your product vision.
Lenny Rachitsky, former senior project manager at Airbnb, suggests answering a few questions with your project or goal in mind to crystallize the problem:
Description: What is the problem? This is just a brief description of what you think about it.
Problem: What problem does it solve? This statement is your problem. Keep it short, focused, and connected to the “need” that isn’t being met.
- Good problem statement: Users who don’t invite their team are churning at a very high rate.
- Bad problem statement: Users are turning away. [doesn’t have enough focus and why hypothesis]
Why: How do you know this problem is worth solving? Gather evidence to support your problem statement; Including quantitative and qualitative data. What made you think this problem was worth solving in the first place?
Success: How do you know you’ve solved the problem? What specific metrics and results will show you that you have accomplished what you set out to achieve? Try to convert it to a specific number.
Audience: Who are you building for? Is it for all users? New users only? Returning users? Power users? Mobile-only?
What: What is the problem/opportunity in the product? How will you solve the problem? What are the available options?
Even if you summarize your answers on one page, it still seems like more than can be squeezed into one format. Another way to present a problem statement is to use the User, Need, Insight framework:
[user… (descriptive)] needs [need… (verb)] because [insight… (persuasive).]
Finally, if you’re still having trouble writing your problem statement, try one of these tips:
Great project managers make sure their team is aware of their work issues. Effective project goals will help you with this on a daily basis better than any other tool.
When you work with your team to develop a problem statement, actively get buy-in from stakeholders, and then translate problems into actionable and intelligent project goals, everyone knows what they’re working on, how you’ll measure success, and why. This is important.
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