We hear the term "objective" to often in our professional life. Company objectives, project objectives, department objectives etc. What is objective? What is project objectives? What is management by objectives? What are the practices of management by objectives (MBO) philosophy?

management by objectives

We will describe the objectives and management by objectives in this post.


Objectives are what needs to be achieved during or at the end of the project. Each project will have unique objectives. For instance, a new feature development can be a project objective, increasing revenue or decreasing costs can be a new project objective, or producing a new product can be objective of a project.

Let's consider the Golden Gate Bridge construction project. Think about what would be the objectives of this project?

Objectives of this project can be:

  • The bridge must have six lanes in total, three for each side.
  • The bridge must carry at least 2.5 million kilograms
  • It must resist an at least 8.5 Richter Scale earthquake.
management by objectives

Note that these are just three examples that are given to illustrate what can be the objectives of a project. For sure, constructing a bridge that will be connecting two sides of a city will have several other objectives. Note that if objectives of a project cannot be met, that project will be considered as failed.

Important Points about Objectives

Let’s go over important points about objectives.

Projects are considered complete one objectives are met. Therefore, project manager must monitor project objectives and if there are any risks that can cause not meeting any of the objectives, preventive and corrective actions should be taken accordingly.

A reason for terminating a project before completion is that the project objectives cannot be met. Think of the Golden Gate Bridge project objectives. Let's say if the bridge couldn't have carried 2.5 million kg, that would be the reason for the project failure.

Project Manager is the ultimate accountable of meeting project objectives. Therefore, project manager must keep track of objectives and ensure that project activities, tasks and deliverables will help to meet project objectives.

management by objectives

Quality activities are for checking whether the project meets its objectives. For example, consider the Golden Gate Bridge project. After the construction finishes, you cannot open it directly to the traffic right? You need to test whether it will carry the traffic. Therefore, quality activities are for ensuring to meet project objectives.

And there is a trade-off between requirements and objectives. If you have lots of requirements, then most probably you will have lots of objectives.

management by objectives

Management by Objectives (MBO)

It is better to mention about management by objectives as well. Management by objectives is abbreviated as MBO. Management by objectives is a management philosophy. Management by objectives philosophy ensures to complete a work, task or activity by managing the objectives that will bring you to the completion.

Management by objectives philosophy has three steps.

Management by Objectives - Step #1

First step of management by objectives philosophy is, establishing clear and realistic objectives. This is important because subjective objectives will not be sufficient. “We will produce a very good car”. Is this an objective? No. Because good, bad, fast, slow are all subjective. A very fast car can be very slow for another driver. Therefore, objectives must be quantitative. “We will produce a car that will reach 100 km/h in 8 seconds”. This is an acceptable objective for management by objectives philosophy because we determined quantitative values.

Management by Objectives - Step #2

Second step of management by objectives philosophy is, periodically evaluating if project objectives are met. Projects might take for months or even years to complete. Sometimes, several resources can work on a package for a long time. Therefore, you need to check the outputs of the work being produced whether it meets the project objectives. Otherwise, your end product or deliverable might deviate from what you desired to get in the beginning.

Management by Objectives - Step #3

Third and the last step of management by objectives philosophy is, implementing corrective actions if there are problems. You set the objectives, project works started to complete the project activities but there are problems in the middle of the work and you see that the objectives will not be met. You need to take corrective actions as management by objectives philosophy proposes. This can be an inadequate personnel in your project team, quality of the materials or a tool missing etc. Whatever the reason is, you need to find the problem fix the root cause according to management by objectives philosophy.

management by objectives

Setting objectives clearly and managing the project team is a crucial factor in a project's success. Management by objectives plays a vital role at this point. Management by objectives philosophy will help an organization to set quantitative, attainable and measurable objectives.

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management by objectives