Difference between Goals and Objectives

 

Key Difference: A goal is a desired result that a person wishes to achieve. It is a target that a person wants to reach. It is an end-point of where a person sees himself after a certain period of time. Objective is actually a part of goal. Objectives are more concrete and are clearly defined by certain steps that will eventually allow the person to fulfill that particular objective. Objectives are often short term and have a limited amount of time frame.

 

Goals and objectives are similar words in the English language and are commonly used interchangeably. However, these two words have distinct differences and mean two different things. Both, goals and objectives, play an important part in a person’s life. These determine what the person wants to achieve during his lifetime. Goals and objectives often go hand-in-hand as goals determine the objectives, while objectives without goal is simply following blindly in a direction.

 

A goal is a desired result that a person wishes to achieve. It is a target that a person wants to reach. It is an end-point of where a person sees himself after a certain period of time. Goals can be short term or long term. Short term goals are goals that are placed after a small amount of time, while long term goal require a life-altering decision. A person can also set personal goals as well as professional goals. Personal goals include a vision for personal things such as marriage, child, home, etc; professional goals are related to the professional aspect of life such as job, career and so on.

 

Dictionary.com defines ‘goal’ as:

  • The result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.

 

Objective is actually a part of goal. Objectives are more concrete and are clearly defined by certain steps that will eventually allow the person to fulfill that particular objective. Objectives are often short term and have a limited amount of time frame. They have three parts to it: what the person wants to do, the time frame required and the resources he plans to use. These three things are answered in an objective. Objectives are also much easier to measure than goals. It asks only if the person finished what he wanted to in the amount of time he had set aside. Objectives can be considered as being more realistic.

 

Dictionary.com defines ‘objectives’ as:

  • Something that one's efforts or actions are intended to attain or accomplish; purpose; goal; target.

 

Goals give a person something to look forward to or a milestone that he is expected to reach. On the other hand, objectives give the person a means to reach that goal. It determines how the person will reach that goal by breaking it down into small and simple steps. Goals are also long-term, while objectives are short term. Think of it this way, goals is the place a person wants to reach, objectives are the directions and landmarks that will help the person reach that place. They both work to together to help a person achieve what he desires.

 

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Comments

From my points of view as a performance management practitioner: A goal describes what you want to accomplish. A key performance indicator (KPI) monitors progress towards a specific goal. A target is the value of a KPI a defined moment in time.

I was thinking about the comparison between a goal and an objective. It is interesting to see how goals and objectives are involved in common business practices. For instance, a "vision" is a top-level goal, which is then formalized in a form of a strategy map, which is actually a set of objectives.

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