Good - I've led development of a crisp statement of the project goal. Business goals are referenced. For example, the goal of the project is to reduce the average customer wait time at the call center by one minute.
Bad - I've heard a lot of debate about goals and have heard various conflicting statements. Technology potential is referenced by some stakeholders. For example, the goal of the project is to reduce customer wait time at the call center by introducing a cool, new, faster network to improve response time.
Ugly - I'm not sure what the goal is. My effort to understand the goal or to achieve some consensus with other stakeholders has not been successful. For example, the customer service manager thinks the goal is to increase customer satisfaction, the call center manager thinks the goal is to have every call answered before the third ring.
Assemble the project team and facilitate a discussion to build a clear statement of the project goal in no more than two sentences; one sentence is better. Using the SMART framework to describe the goal is effective. Often it's useful to list a small number of objectives that support the goal. For example, implement ERP may be the goal. Related objectives might be about improving data quality or which ERP modules will be implemented or the sequence in which various business units or divisions will be implemented.
Have the project steering committee endorse the proposed project goal. Endorsement by the steering committee achieves consensus within management about what the project is all about and what the steering committee really wants to achieve. Endorsement starts the process of building a shared understanding of what the project will achieve. The understanding will be elaborated as the project progresses. For example, it's common for different vice presidents to have different perceptions of what the problems are or what the priorities for fixing them should be; one VP may want to start with manufacturing planning while another one wants to start with billing.
Successful project managers work hard to achieve a consensus on the project goal early in the project and then work to maintain that consensus.
1. www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.html. The acronym has a variety of meanings; I like this one:
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Relevant & realistic
T - Time-framed