I see a common problem when reviewing project charters. The goals are activity-oriented, rather than results-oriented. And this can lead to misunderstandings about what the project team needs to achieve. Let's look at how to write results-oriented goals.
How to Write Results-Oriented Goals
When writing goals, consider the desired business results, not the actions or activities required to get the results.
- Increase revenue by 10% over the prior year by 12/31/20XX.
- Achieve a customer service measure of 95% or higher by the end of the third quarter, 20XX.
These SMART business goals specify the desired operational results and clearly communicate why the projects are important.
I often see a different type of goal, that is, an activity-oriented goal. Here are some examples:
- Implement a new call center software solution by the end of the third quarter, 20XX.
- Train the customer service managers on the call center software by the end of the third quarter, 20XX.
Project activities are distinct parts of work that the project team plans and executes within a project. Yes, these activities are essential, but the activities are not the ultimate goal. Do you see the difference?
Why Results-Oriented Goals Are Better
Is it wrong to write activity-oriented goals? Not necessarily. However, the project manager should always think about their projects from the perspective of the sponsor. Seek to understand how the project relates to the strategy of the organization.
If the sponsor requests a project to implement a call center software solution. The project manager may ask, “How will the call center software help you?”
The sponsor replies, “Our customer service measure has dropped from 95% to 87% over the last six months. We need better tools to monitor our call volume and wait time. I want the Call Center Manager to periodically review and evaluate the recorded calls and wait times and then provide coaching and training to the Call Center Team.”
Now the project manager has a deeper understanding of the sponsor's needs and the project team can take appropriate steps to ensure the sponsor achieves the strategic business goals. Furthermore, writing results-oriented goals helps in defining the project's success criteria.
Risk Management Starts With Clear Goals
What is the relationship between goals and risk management? Once our goals are clear, we can ask, "What may help or hinder our ability to achieve each goal?" So, we identify the opportunities and threats.
Risk management should occur at different levels within an organization such as: enterprise, operations, and projects. For example an insurance company may write goals for:
- ENTERPRISE: Increase company profit
- OPERATIONS/SALES: Increase sales agent incentives
- PROJECT TEAM: File/increase private passenger automobile rates
Going Beyond Project Risk Management to Enterprise Risk Management
Imagine in the example above that the organization has an enterprise risk management (ERM) program. The ERM Champion would work with the Customer Service Manager to define a contingency plan to be executed if the customer service measure target is not being met. This risk response plan might include additional customer service reps and training, for example.
How to Jumpstart an ERM Program
Every organization manages risk, some better than others. How can organizations engage the right people, at the right time, and undertake the right risk management activities? How can organizations achieve their objectives and fulfill their mission?