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What is an objective? Definition and meaning

In business, an objective – often referred to as aims and objectives – are the specific results that the company aims to achieve with the resources it has available and within a specific time frame. A business’ goal is more general and may not say when things will happen, while an objective is specific and tells you when the aim plans to be accomplished.

A business’ primary aim is to add value, which in the private sector involves making a profit. Strategic objectives or aims may include brand building, market leadership, expansion, or gaining a specific share of the market.

What is an Objective and a GoalYour goal is less specific than your objective. Your objectives explain how you will get to your target – they also includes a time frame.

An objective must be SMART

A company’s business objective is a detailed picture of a step its CEO or directors plan to take in order to reach a stated aim. According to businesscasestudies.co.uk, these must be SMART in order for the company to know what progress it has made towards achieving the objective.



SMART refers to the first letter of each of the five words listed below – they describe what an objective must be:

Specific: easy to understand and clear.

Measurable: in other words, easy to quantify.

Achievable: possible to be attained.

Realistic: this one is similar to achievable. The aim must not be ‘pie in the sky’.

Time bound: related to specific durations and/or dates.

Business objectives of a companyA company’s business objectives can cover a wide range of themes. They provide a detailed picture of how stated goals will be achieved over a specified period with the resources that are available.

Objective versus Goal

A business’ goals are not the same as its objectives – although their meanings are similar, they are not identical.

Mikal E. Belicove describes the difference clearly and accurately in a Forbes article:

“A goal is a broad primary outcome. An objective is a measurable step you take to achieve a strategy.”

A goal is the purpose toward which an endeavor is aimed, while an objective is something that your efforts or actions are intended to attain or accomplish.

Objectives are measurable and tangible, while goals usually are not. Goals generally look at the long-term while objectives are either mid-term or short-term.

The two terms imply that the person’s wants to get somewhere and will make an effort to get there. Goals looks at overall accomplishments or achievements for which effort is required. Objectives are specific, time-related targets within that overall goal.

According the BusinessDictionary.com, an objective is:

“A specific result that a person or system aims to achieve within a time frame and with available resources. In general, objectives are more specific and easier to measure than goals.”

Used as an adjective

The word is also an adjective and refers to a person or his or her judgment that is not biased – not influenced by personal opinions or feelings in representing or considering facts.

A good journalist must be objective – impartial and neutral – a person who reports just the facts, with no bias, and says it like it is. The opposite is subjective.

Video – What is your business objective

This Helix Institute video explains what a business objective is with simple and easy-to-understand terms.

Whats your business objective? Your Value Proposition? Your Anchor Product? from The Helix Institute on Vimeo.