What is an objective? Definition and meaning

In business, an objective refers to the specific steps a company will take to achieve a desired result. The result is the goal. Hence the term ‘goals and objectives.’ In other words, my goal is what I want to become, while my objective is how I plan to get there.

A business’ goal is more general and may not specify when things will happen. Objectives, on the other hand, are specific and tell you what the company will do to reach its goal.

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.

Objectives, if a company is losing money, may include laying off staff and closing some branches.

Goal_Objective_DifferenceAn objective is ‘SMART’

A company’s business objective is a detailed picture of a step its senior management plans. Specifically, they are steps it plans to take to reach a specific goal.

According to businesscasestudies.co.uk, these must be SMART so that the company can gauge and monitor its progress

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 dates.

Business objectives of a companyA company’s business objectives can cover a wide range of themes. They provide a comprehensive picture of how it plans to accomplish specific goals with the available resources.

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 we aim an endeavor. An objective, however, is something that our 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 wants to get somewhere and will make an effort to get there. Goals look at overall accomplishments or achievements for which we must make an effort. Objectives are specific targets within that overall goal. Objectives usually have a time frame and deadlines.

According to 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.”

Objective as an adjective

The word is also an adjective. It refers to a person or his or her judgment that is not biased. In other words, personal opinions or feelings do not influence a person’s judgment or decisions.

A good journalist must be objective, i.e., a person who reports just the facts, with no bias. Put simply; a good journalist should say 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.

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