Our organization is changing their performance management system to be link to compensation. Right, wrong or indifferent, "exceeds" will be defined as the "goals" for the next year. We are looking for ways to define SMART goals for the corporate project manager, who is responsible for the Project Portfolio Management methodology, project management methodology, and management of corporate / strategic projects.

We don't want to limit the PM to "successful delivery of projects" because success may mean a recommendation of cancelling a project. We would like to figure out a way to attach a SMART goal to influencing or coaching at a variety of levels (staff, project, strategic, etc), or a SMART goal about involvement in culture change or setting up culture change, but are not sure how to word it. How can measurements be set outside of "on time, on scope, on budget"?

  • I'm curious as to what the final result of the original question. Now that it has been some time since this was first posted how did the goals turn out and what did you change in subsequent goal setting exerecises?
    – user7547
    Dec 9, 2013 at 2:53
  • Related question. Possible duplicate? pm.stackexchange.com/q/6223/4271
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Dec 9, 2013 at 13:06

4 Answers 4


For project managers I would set a goal which is in connection with the customers.

I have two real life examples. As a project manager we expect you to deliver

  • a feature which attracts 10,000 new customers
  • a feature which 90% of our existing customers are satisfied with

I think these examples matches the criteria of a SMART goal. The measurement is tricky in the second case, but it is possible: satisfaction can be an extraction of usage, found defects, feedback and surveys.

  • this assumes that i know what the projects are that i will be managing. it also assumes that projects are the right projects...and i want to encourage the organization to put up ideas that may actually have to be cancelled after some investigation.
    – user4011
    Jun 28, 2012 at 16:55

We all set results as goals since in business we tend to be results oriented. And I like Trevor's decompostion of goals from the organization down to the individual. That creates a natural alignment.

However, results oriented goals many times create behaviors you don't want. Behaviors that might achieve the goals, but not in a manner that meets your business's values, maybe not even legal, certainly not predictable, and maybe not even sustainable. The reason this happens, I think, is that results are driven by not only what an individual does but also by a plethora of random events over which the individual has no control. Therefore, (s)he has to find other creative ways to achieve those results.

A true anecdote around this: an organization sets very high sales targets for their employees. They award based on those targets being achieved. The intra-competition was so severe that any collaboration that was needed to make sales disappeared. People were avoided, sabotaged. And if you did bring someone else in, it was like mob negotiations. Everyone needed a taste. Collaboration was just one of many positive work behaviors that disappeared or was diminished. I think in the end, this inhibited success quite dramatically.

The work behavior is the independent variable in this. It is what we control. The results are dependent; it is what we hope to achieve. So, while you draft goals around results, which you cannot get away from, remember the behavior goals. Find a way to measure what they do and reward it no matter the results from it.

  • this is the very problem. SMART goals tend to be results oriented. We don't want to encourage behaviour that never cancels projects, or that makes sure that all project are on or under budget. We want to encourage behaviour that reflects risk assessment in execution, and seeking appropriate levels of decision making. so the trick is finding a way to measure how we want people to behave. any ideas?
    – user4011
    Jun 28, 2012 at 16:53

This is challenging because what makes a really good project manager tends to be on the soft-skills side, which by their nature are difficult to measure. So I agree with your trying to avoid the on time/budget/scope paradigm.

Have you tried applying planning techniques to defining the behaviors you want to encourage? I would try to iteratively break these down into smaller components in the same way that you create a WBS so that the scope of the behavior is defined. That gives you the "Specific" of SMART, and the smaller components should be more amenable to being "Measurable" and being allocated to a particular individual who is "Accountable". You should be able to map out dependencies between the smaller components so that you can see relative the order of how things need to happen, helping figure out what is "Reasonable" to achieve in the "Time-box" of the evaluation.

Example: I want to encourage mentoring/coaching of staff. This can include among other things helping them to manage their career development. So maybe a "SMART" goal would be to collaboratively develop career goals and plans for achieving these for each subordinate in Q1, and reviewing progress on these quarterly and revising them annually thereafter.

  • thanks for the suggestion. i now have a few things to take back and think about incorporating.
    – user4011
    Jul 13, 2012 at 15:56

I would suggest trying to translate the organization goals into specific goals that could then be checked. 100% adoption of the specific methodology, implementation of a training program and number of people through it, specific new business processes rolled out, etc.

Look at what the goals for org are, how the PM can/will influence those, and then nail them down for numbers or dates.

For example, what does "setting up culture change" mean? Define the as-is and the to-be for changing the culture, and then set goals for the PM based on that. The measurements then become, it was done, or it wasn't.

  • very good thoughts, thank you. at the start of the year, especially in a less mature company, what projects will happen are not yet known, and what projects the PM will manage VS over see as the PMO are also not known. (same person is the PMO and manages some projects, but not all). food for thought.
    – user4011
    Jun 28, 2012 at 16:30

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