The goal is the goal
The author has written this series of blogs to provide interesting insights into project management in the airline industry. In the second post, he shares a striking example from the sector that is worth remembering when defining goals at the start of a project.
It is a beautiful fall day in October 2017 at the same Operations Control Center (OCC) already featured in the first blog post in this series.
The outdated control software has been causing problems for some time now. Employees are required to carry out manual checks and corrections at several process stages when planning and managing crews and aircraft. Time and time again, passengers are experiencing delays and missing connections because information is not being processed quickly enough.
OCC staff, company management and consultants meet in a conference room to improve the situation.
2. The project goal as part of a target system
Several project triggers have already been mentioned in the scenario described above. These triggers often result from a desire or need to:
- solve problems,
- comply with legislation,
- improve processes, or
- enhance conditions.
The intro contains the wording “to improve the situation”, while the previous blog entry included the project aim “to ensure and improve flight operations” that was devised in the aforementioned meeting.
A formulated project goal forms the basis for all project activities. This goal can consist of several subgoals or form part of a wider context.
In this example, the following subgoals are formulated, among others:
Project goal: “to ensure flight operations”
- Subgoal: Make control software highly available
- Subgoal: Ensure that the system takes visa and entry requirements into account during crew planning
Project goal: “to improve flight operations”
- Subgoal: Reduce delays
- Subgoal: Reduce hotel stays for crews
- Subgoal: Ease the strain on staff with automated processes
However, the subgoals to “reduce delays” and “reduce hotel stays for crews” also help to achieve the company’s overall goals of “increasing customer satisfaction” and “reducing costs”.
And as a project is always scheduled for a limited period of time (see first blog post), the subgoal “to implement the project in time for the 2018/2019 winter schedule” was also taken into account.
3. Ensuring project success
In order for a project to be successful, its goals must be achieved!
While this might sound obvious at first, how do you establish whether or not targets have been met? What should you take into account when formulating these goals?
The next section provides some helpful tips.
4. "Smart" goals
At first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking that this word simply means “clever” or “intelligent”.
However, “SMART” also provides us with a good mnemonic for remembering relevant criteria when formulating goals.
The goal must be formulated as clearly and precisely as possible in order to prevent issues and misunderstandings.
The goal must be measurable. The examples already mentioned the aim to make improvements by the end of the project. How can these be verified? How do you know whether improvements have actually been made?
For example, the subgoal “reduce delays” can be measured using the following metrics:
- Number of delayed flights per day
- Total delays per day in minutes
- Average delay in minutes
Everyone involved in the project must accept the goal. If this is not the case, this may indicate conflicts of interest that could hinder the project’s implementation at a later date.
The goal must be realistic and achievable; if it is not, it will be impossible to complete the project.
The final date of a project specifies the point at which the outcome of the project is delivered. Deliverability is also a prerequisite for any project outcome (see ‘Realistic’ above).
5. Reaching goals and achieving project success
In the conference room mentioned in the intro to this blog, all of the participants were aware of how important it is to formulate clear project goals (see the examples in the text above) and thus develop and implement the project in a goal-oriented way - in the truest sense of the word! These efforts paid off when the project was successfully completed around a year later, as described in the first blog post.
Contrary to the well-known adage that “the journey is the destination”, a project is not an end in itself.
Every project must be completed, and this is all the more achievable if clear SMART goals are set and any issues, ambiguities and misunderstandings are identified and eliminated at the start of a project.