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What are characteristics of a good goal statement?

by D. Power

Goals and objectives can and should guide action. One of the 9 Principals of War is to set clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objectives. Goal or objective statements provide direction for planning, for evaluating plans and for guiding projects and actions. A "good" goal statement is SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Acceptable
  • Realistic
  • Time bound

Specific: The goal statement should indicate what should be accomplished. It should be phrased using action words (like "design," "sell," "build," "implement,").

Measurable: The goal statement should clearly state what will be achieved and when it will be achieved?If you can measure the goal, you can dtermine if you have accomplished it. If the goal is accomplished, the project is a success.

Acceptable: Does everyone in the organization agree that the goal is necessary and desirable? Is the objective acceptable to managers and KEY stakeholders?

Realistic: This means the goal can be accomplished, but it is probably challenging. Is the goal/objective achievable?

Time bound: A goal should specify a deadline and time horizon.

Another list of criteria for evaluating goals and objectives includes:

  1. Acceptable - Is the objective acceptable to managers and KEY stakeholders?
  2. Flexible - Is the objective adaptable to unforeseen changes in the firmís environment?
  3. Measurable - Does the objective clearly state what will be achieved and when it will be achieved?
  4. Achievable - Is the objective achievable? Can it be reached?
  5. Motivating - Is the objectiveís target high enough to challenge, yet realistic and achievable?
  6. Suitable - Does the goal/objective fit with the mission statement/purpose and with other important long-term objectives?
  7. Understandable - Will managers at all levels understand what senior managers are trying to accomplish and achieve by setting the specific long-term objective?

A memory aid for the seven characteristics of well-defined goals and objectives is AFMAMSU

Traditional goal-setting wisdom prescribes that a good short-run goal must be a) written, b) challenging, c) believable, d) specific, e) measureable, and f) have a specific deadline.

Direct every military operation towards a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective.

from various sources including:


Jeff Crow, "What constitutes a good project goal statement?",

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Copyright © 2004-15 by D. J. Power (see his home page). PlanningSkills.COMsm is maintained by Alexander P. and Daniel J. Power. Please contact them at with questions. See disclaimer and privacy statement. This page was last modified on December 8, 2015.