Often in business and education, we talk about goals and objectives, indeed sometimes we use the terms interchangeably – but are they the same?
Let's start with some history and definitions:
Goal – 1530s, “end point of a race,” of uncertain origin, perhaps from O.E. *gal “obstacle, barrier,” a word implied by gælan “to hinder.” The word goal appears once before this, in a poem from early 14c. and with an apparent sense of “boundary, limit.” Sports sense of “place where the ball is put to score” is attested from the 1540s. Figurative sense of “object of the effort” is from the 1540s
Objective- The 1610s, originally in the philosophical sense of “considered in relation to its object” (opposite of subjective), formed on the pattern of M.L. objectivus, from objectum “object” (see object (n.)). Meaning “impersonal, unbiased” is first found in 1855, influenced by Ger. objektiv. The noun is 1738, with a sense of “something objective to the mind;” meaning “goal, aim” is first as a military term from the American Civil War, 1864 (in objective point), from French; general use of it is first attested 1881
Goals & Objectives in a modern business & educational sense
It has been said that Goals without objectives can never be achieved while objectives without goals will never get you to where you want to be. Indeed the two concepts are related and yet separate. Using both can enable you (or the organization) to be and do what you want to do.
A company’s goals and objectives are the foundation, which measures how much distance it has covered to attain its vision. Goals are defined as the lifelong aims, which an individual or entity endeavor to achieve something. It determines what the company is attempting to accomplish. On the other hand, objectives are the specific milestones which a person plans to achieve in a limited period. These are precise, measurable, time-based, actions that assist in the achievement of the goal.
Some management academics would say that the difference between goals and objectives is that a goal is a description of a destination, and an objective is a measure of the progress that is needed to get to the destination.
In this context, goals are the long term outcomes you (or the organization) want/ need to achieve. More often than not, these goals can be broken into “chunks” or objectives. Goals are often open and unstructured in nature. Goals can be fluid and are directional in nature.
Objectives tend to be single achievable outcomes. They are concrete in statement and purpose. There is no ambiguity as to whether they have been achieved or not
Examples of Goals and Objectives
I want to be the best musician in the school
We will be the number 1 supplier of….
I want to maintain a good knowledge of the profession.
we will sell xxx units by June next year.
I will pass my stage 3 business French assessment.
We will deliver 90% of the contract by…
So what is the real difference between goals and objectives?
Simple – your desired outcome, scope and time frame… one is a goal… the other an objective.