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Characteristics of Good Objectives

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Workshop Handout

An objective is more specific than a goal; in what ways? A Good Objective is SMART

In preparing a project design, and when writing a proposal (for approval or for requesting funds), the goals of the project are stated. The goal is easily defined as the solution to the problem that has been identified. The problem with such a "goal" is that it is too general; it is not easy to obtain consensus as to when it has been reached.

That is why, when preparing project documents, a distinction is made between a "goal" and an "objective." An objective is derived from a goal, has the same intention as a goal, but it is more specific, quantifiable and verifiable than the goal.

Let us say that the problem identified by community members is "Lack of clean drinking water." The solution to that problem, the goal, then is "To bring clean drinking water to the community." You can demonstrate to the group the vagueness of this goal by going out of the room and returning with a single glass of water, showing it to them. "OK, here is some water. I have brought it to the community. Now, is the project complete? Have we achieved the goal?"

Of course they might laugh or say that it was obvious that they did not mean only a glass of water when they said, "To bring clean drinking water to the community." Your reply is then that the project design or proposal must be very specific about each objective, so that there can be no room for different interpretations.

Remember, every objective must start with the word , "To." An easy way to remember the characteristics of a good objective, is the acronym, "SMART." It stands for "Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound."

S pecific
M easurable
A chievable
R ealistic
T ime-Bound

When identifying objectives as part of an exercise in preparing a project design or proposal, use the SMART acronym as a check list, to see if the objective is a good objective. (Making sure each objective begins with the word, "To.") The objectives must be derived from, and consistent with, the intention of the identified goals.

The objectives of a project should be "SMART." They should be:

S pecific: clear about what, where, when, and how the situation will be changed;

M easurable: able to quantify the targets and benefits;

A chievable: able to attain the objectives
               (knowing the resources and capacities at the disposal of the community);

R ealistic: able to obtain the level of change reflected in the objective; and

T ime bound: stating the time period in which they will each be accomplished.

For more information on SMART, see:
SMART Objectives
Characteristics of Successful Objectives

Community Contribution; Digging a Trench:

Community Contribution; Digging a Trench

© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
Web Design by Lourdes Sada
Last update: 2011.09.28

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