Your Purpose And Objectives – Don’t Confuse The Two

purpose vs objective

What’s the purpose of a football team, or any other team in a team sport?

Did you immediately think, “to win the game” or “to beat the opposition”?

OK, here’s another question…What’s the objective for the team?

Did you repeat the same answers?

Very often, we find there is a confusion between what we consider to be a purpose and what we consider to be an objective. It’s a question we like to pose on our Management Training Courses. The purpose is the reason why the business exists, why you exist or why the team does what it does. The objective is what it needs to do to achieve its goals.

The purpose of a football team could be to provide entertainment and pride for their supporters to relish. Their objective could be to score more points or goals in a game than the opposition.

What’s your life purpose?

Have you ever given it much thought?

Some responses I’ve heard include:

“To make an impact on the world’s carbon footprint and to be the best person I can be”

“To inspire others to live their best life”

“To be a positive role model for my children”

“To create innovative solutions for the underprivileged to give them a better chance of being a success in life”

What’s your life objectives?

In terms of the objectives required to achieve some of these you can now see that they would need to very different.

For example, in terms of this one:

“To make an impact on the world’s carbon footprint and to be the best person I can be”

Some objectives could be:

  • Reduce my own carbon footprint by 20% within the next year
  • Reduce my own carbon footprint by 60% within 5 years
  • Find a job where I can impact CO2 emissions within my country

The purpose is the why and the objectives are the what.

What’s your team purpose at work?

So, what would you consider to be the purpose of your team?

On our Team Building Training different managers have come up with ideas like:

“To create a culture of excellence”

“To serve the customer with pride”

“To become the best team in the company”

This differs quite a bit from the team’s objectives.

What’s your team objectives?

The objectives of your team is what you should all be doing to achieve its purpose.

So, ideas would include:

  • To make a return on investment of 25%
  • To sell 2,500 widgets in the next 2 months
  • To produce 35 units of equipment in time for the sales team to do their job
  • To improve customer satisfaction by 15% within the next month

What would you consider your team’s main objective?

Have a chat with your team members. See if they know what the team’s purpose is. See if they can determine the difference between purpose and objective. And help them to identify their role within that purpose and what they can do to achieve the objectives. Don’t let them be confused between the two.

How to set objectives

So we’ve already established that purpose and objectives are not the same think. Your purpose is an idea or vision while an objective is the clear path you’ve decided to take in order to reach that goal.

When setting clear objectives a commonly used model is the SMART System.

SMART is an acronym, defined as follows:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Realistic

T = Time-Bound

Specific objectives are very detailed – you know exactly what you are trying to do.

Measurable objectives are those you can monitor for effectiveness. You can measure the outcome or compare it to a standard to determine whether or not you are successful.

Achievable objectives are those that make sense. They’re realistic and not just backed by hopes and wishes. You can take action and actually obtain an achievable objective.

Realistic objectives are feasible and possible. This means that not only do you have the talent on hand to reach your objectives, but you have the resources (computer software, research materials, etc) available to make it happen.

Time-bound objectives have a realistic timeline – one that you must follow in order to be successful.

Here are some examples of SMART objectives:

“To increase the turnover for Product X by 25% by 1st January”

“To reduce the number of customer refunds by 10% by 31 March”

“To recruit 2 new people into the operations team before the end of quarter 1”

Remember, your objectives need to be SMART!

We’ve got a great article called How To Set Objectives That Wont Be Forgotten In Two Weeks. This will really help you to shape and create objectives by covering the 4 main elements that any objective needs to be.

If you’re a manager and would like to improve your management and leadership skills then please check out our FREE Online Management Course

Thanks again



Sean McPheat Managing Director

MTD Training

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Updated on: 15 May, 2020

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