How to Write SMART Project Goals

What is the role of the project manager? The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) says, “The project manager is the person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives (my italics).”

Defining clear goals is the foundation of the project. Project managers and teams who start with SMART goals are positioned for success.

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People with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine.” -Brian Tracy

What are SMART goals? SMART is an acronym that stands for:

Specific (and Strategic)

When writing goals, the author should be specific. Avoid being too general.

Does the goal support the strategy of the organization? If the project goals are achieved, will the organization make significant progress towards the company’s mission, vision, values, and corporate goals?


Can the goal be measured in terms of cost, quality, quantity, and timeliness?


Has the team worked together to define the goal? Can everyone support the goal?

Realistic (and Relevant)

Have you ever chuckled as you read a goal that you knew was not attainable? While it is a good thing to challenge the team, make sure the goal can be achieved. Don’t fall for the fallacy of stretch goals.

Make sure the goals are relevant or results-oriented.


All goals should have a well-defined deadline. This adds a sense of urgency and keeps the team focused.

In my post “How To Write Clear Goals,” I provide a simple syntax to aid individuals in writing specific, measurable goals.

Who Writes the Goals?

The author of the project goals varies from one organization to another. However, I strongly suggest that the Project Sponsor (or Champion) articulate the goals.

Frankly, some Project Sponsors need help writing goals. The project manager may assist the Sponsor in the defining the SMART goals. Most Sponsors will welcome the support.

Where Do Goals Go?

The project manager should include the goals in the Project Charter. The Charter is defined during the Initiation Process, the process where projects are formally recognized and approved.

Many organizations have Project Boards or Committees that review project submissions and evaluate the project in terms of strategic importance, financial viability, risk, and regulatory compliance. Part of this evaluation includes an assessment of how the project goals align with the corporate goals.

Call to Action

Got goals? If you are starting to develop goals or you have existing goals, run them through the SMART filter. Refine the goals. Engage your key stakeholders for review and feedback.