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What Happens When the Project Goal Isn’t Clear

What Happens When the Project Goal Isn’t Clear

Every project manager must think beyond the proposed requirements, budget and timelines to ensure they are performing high-visibility projects efficiently to achieve strategic goals.

What happens if the goal isn’t clear?

As a project manager, you are accountable for the failure and success of the projects. No pressure, right?

Let’s face it. Being a project manager is no easy gig. With different deadlines, personalities, work approaches, communication styles, and priorities, keeping everything on track and running the entire process smoothly often feels like a battle.

In my previous posts, I’ve shared many strategies on successful project management.

Can you tell me, what’s the most common thing in all those posts?

A clear project goal. Yes, every successful project carries a clear goal and efficient execution.

Hence, in your case…

Is the goal clear?

A well-defined project goal helps complete a project successfully. What if the project goal is not clear? Or it’s clear, but you’re not sure whether it’s right for you or not?

Setting SMART goals is very important while driving critical business initiatives.

Smart Goal


Make sure the following components are well defined:

  • The goal is realistic
  • The goal has a defined timeline by which it has to be met
  • The goal is broken down into smaller actionable targets spread over the entire duration of the initiative
  • The goal has proper measurable metrics defined and reported
  • The ROI is well understood

What are the consequences of an unclear project goal? 

When your business goals aren’t clear, your business productivity and competitiveness go down.

Here are 3 consequences of unclear project goals:

You will never complete your work:

Unclear goals never allow you to get your work “DONE!”

The team is always in a state of wonderness and they all try to interpret it in their own way.

Everyone involved thinks his interpretation is the right thing to do and charts out his own path.

And you end up in absolute chaos!

The first and foremost thing to do is, get to a clear definition of the project goal under all circumstances.

Initiate discussions, schedule meetings or team sessions to capture all relevant aspects of the initiative.

Identify the true objective and requirements and ensure the project team is in sync with the stakeholders.

Do not even plan for execution unless you have a proper agreement from the business sponsor, client, and other stakeholders.

The path is not easy. Sure! But your team and customers will thank you for it.

Because starting up without a proper project goal will only lead to significant loss of revenue, efforts, and resources. No business likes that!

Pro Tip: No matter, what it is. Have a sign-off. Remember you are accountable!

You will miss your goals:

What will you achieve when you don’t know what is supposed to be done?

Internet is flooded with memes where what the customer wanted, what was understood and what was delivered at the end was miles apart!

Requirement Mismatch


Imagine, the loss of reputation! It is hard to bounce back from such a blunder!

As a Project Manager, one of your most critical success factors is answering “What’s in it for me (WIFM)” for your team.

They will not follow you if they do not see personal enrichment for their careers in the project.

All initiatives always bring with them challenges, learning, and innovation. If these are not visible and understood the team would never be motivated.

  • How would you generate the required outputs when the team’s heart isn’t there?
  • Whom would you bill the unproductive hours?
  • How would you compensate for the loss of revenue?
  • How would you build the team morale?

Lastly, how do you deal with all of these?

You lose before you start! But the good thing is, you don’t have to!

Once you have the sign-off on the goals, get going with the project implementation plan.

Focus on the work breakdown structure (WBS) and make a one that is robust and can accommodate changes if needed.

Define tasks and subtasks with the required information, dependencies with other tasks and task linking, proper assignee, due dates, & estimated hours and leave no scope for guesswork.

Use Kanban boards, time tracking, and Gantt charts to help your team see their actions in absolute grandiose!

They will love it!

Pro Tip: Commit enough time, go to great lengths if you have to, but give your teams clear, actionable and measurable goals. They deserve it!

You will not be able to monitor and measure:

You cannot measure what you do not monitor!

The first step is knowing what to monitor and why?

All your team members are actively working, putting in long hours and highly engaged. Sounds great! Looks great too!

But, at the end of the day, the customer and stakeholders aren’t happy. They do not see deliverables meeting their desired outcomes.

And they are highly dissatisfied, annoyed and so is the team.

What is wrong here?

This is the most common cause of expectations mismanagement. The team is right and so are the stakeholders.

And the Root Cause Analysis (RCA) [if I may call it that] says – what the team thinks the customer wants and what the customer actually wants aren’t the same! Surprise, Surprise!

You, my friend, are caught in the cross-fire! And why not?

  • You are the one who jumped into execution without clear goals
  • You never defined what will be delivered, by whom and when
  • You never agreed on a success criteria
  • You never defined how you are gonna demonstrate progress

It is that simple! Isn’t it?

So what now?

To start with, ensure the actions you missed above are marked “DONE” before you start project execution.

Now, follow those up with a centralized project management platform that captures all the team’s hard work in real-time.

Have your metrics around the project status, actual vs planned hours, billable hours, resource utilization, resource availability, project expenses, project and milestone progress, overdue task reports handy.

Make them accessible to the relevant stakeholders for insightful decision making and preventing delays.

To add to it, the real-time monitoring keeps the team focused on the project goals & committed to achieve them on time and with quality.

Needless to mention that it would be a significant win for any project manager!

Pro Tip: KPIs, Metrics, and Dashboards are crucial in ensuring you are not falling apart from your goals.


If you are going on an adventurous trip with your family, you would most likely draw a map to your destination.

That’s obvious! Right? Similarly, if you want your business to grow and your projects to be successful, why wouldn’t you do the same?

Do you think your goals are clear enough?

Share your thoughts below in the comment box. I would love to hear from you 🙂

Orangescrum gives unlimited storage for any number of projects to your whole team for free.

Orangescrum gives unlimited storage for any number of projects to your whole team for free.


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