How to Set Clear Goals and Accomplish Them

As a project manager, it's important to set clear goals for the team and hold everyone accountable for them. However, setting goals and tracking their progress isn't always easy. Below, we'll discuss some tips to help you and your team establish clear goals and track their progress until your team has successfully completed their project.

Set SMART goals

It's difficult to hit a target when you don't know what the exact goal is. Success has to be measurable, and clearly defined. By mapping out specific milestones for the project, you can easily track progress along the way, and help keep the team on track when it appears they've hit a roadblock.

The most common approach to defining project goals is the SMART approach, which provides guidelines that says that each goal should be:

  • Specific: the goal must be clearly defined
  • Measurable: it should be clear when the team is making progress against the goal, and ideally the goal is quantifiable.
  • Assignable: there must be a clear owner for the goal
  • Realistic: the goals must be feasible given the current constraints your team is facing (i.e. resources, budget, time, etc.)
  • Time-related: there should be a time by which we should expect to accomplish the goal
By satisfying these requirements for setting goals, you'll make sure that the team knows exactly what needs to be accomplished by whom.

Always have a backup plan

Knowing what you want to achieve, and actually getting there, are two different things. Your plan to achieve your goal has to be flexible enough so that it can account for various unforeseen circumstances, but also concrete enough for your team to know what tasks have to be completed and when.

Always keep contingencies in mind. When setting a task and a deadline, ask yourself everything that may go wrong, and have an idea of what you'll do when you run into various issues—hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Understand the risks involved in any task, big or small, and try and figure out a way to mitigate your risks early on.

Track the project's progress

Circumstances are always going to change, but expectations on deliverables remain the same from the top. It is important to track progress and make sure every task is taking you a step closer to your goal. If it's not, then it should be cut from your plan.

Whether you have a daily, weekly, or monthly tracking document, or regular status updates, or just a basic white board in the workplace informing everyone how close you are to achieving your target, it's important to always be in the loop about the project's status. Not only will this help you communicate status to the project's stakeholders, but if you identify areas of the project that are falling behind, you can then step in and figure out how to help get those tasks back on track before it's too late.

Set realistic deadlines, and give space to deliver

Set deadlines—otherwise tasks will drag on way longer than they need to. Setting deadlines helps everyone know when tasks need to be completed, which is also important for managing cross-team dependencies. However, it's important to make sure that these deadlines are realistic, so you don't cause unnecessary churn for the team.

Micromanagement is your worst enemy, especially with larger teams that are doing multiple tasks under strict deadlines. Communicate very clearly, what you expect each person to do and give them the space to do it.

Ask questions when appropriate, or when you feel the team is diverging from the right track, but ultimately you have to let the team do what they do best. This will allow them to work as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Confusion in projects often stems from lack of communication. For this reason, it's best to over-communicate important details and objectives with the team. Not only will they appreciate being in the know of the important details of the project, but they'll have a better understanding of how their work impacts the project as a whole. If there are important details that you don't communicate to the team, then the team can't make sure that those details are handled.

Figure out the best mode of communication for different circumstances. For example, for important, time-sensitive messages, it's best to discuss in person. Other less time-sensitive messages can be delivered through email or through Slack. In addition, if you need to make sure that messages are well-documented (so the team can refer to them later), email is probably the most suitable method of communication.

Leverage technology when possible

A good project management system is worth its weight in gold, and can be an invaluable tool to help keep projects organized. Some very user-friendly and customizable software systems exist today that can help assign owners for various tasks, track budgets, and monitor project progress. Research different systems, and choose one which best suits your needs. Being a project manager is a lot of responsibility. No matter how smart or talented your team is, by ensuring that you're organized, you'll maximize your team's chances for success.

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