Your goal, my objective

Confused_DogAfter years of agonizing over the difference between goals and objectives, I went back to a reliable source “A Concept of Corporate Planning”, Russell L Ackoff, John Wiley & Sons 1970, Chapter 2 “Goals and Objectives”, to find this:


“States or outcomes of behavior that are desired are objectives.”


“Goals are objectives whose attainment is desired by a specific time within the period covered by the plan.”

Applying this to operations, we have process fragments to manage, and, thanks to Dr. Ackoff, we now know that instances of process fragment templates can have goals but typically not objectives.

Goals at process fragment template instances contribute to Case sub-objectives which are reasonably parked at Cases. Where else would you suggest we put them?

In the normal course of events, you will have several sub-objectives at a Case.

Not all of these contribute in the same way to advancement of the overall Case objective which always is to close the Case, so we need a way to weight sub-objectives at Cases.

See how to do it at “Adaptive Case Management Earned Value Matrix Model”

Next, progress toward attainment of each Case sub-objective is likely to be different (remember “S” curves).

Some S curves are slow risers and slow finishers, at the other end we have rapid risers and rapid finishers. In between we have, well,  . . .

Here’s where data mining can help.

If you collect and analyze run time data and you are able, as a result, to do a 1:1 mapping between a process fragment and a Case sub-objective, you are in the unique position where the final goal along the process fragment is the same as one of the Case sub-objectives – you may be able to assign an S curve type to the process fragment and update progress at the sub-objective based on where the processing is along a process fragment instance.

One last point.

Just so no one gets the notion that process fragments can automatically consolidate to Case sub-objectives across the board, Case closure remains the domain of the Case Manager – he/she can close a Case at any time, with one, two, most or all sub-objectives having been met.

Looks like I just met my objective which was to get readers at this blog to reach a goal of understanding the difference between a goal and an objective and how, at times, they can be one and the same where the objective is to attain the goal.

No wonder it has taken this long to sort this out.


Management consultant and process control engineer (MSc EE) with a focus on bridging the gap between operations and strategy in the areas of critical infrastructure protection, major crimes case management, healthcare services delivery, and b2b/b2c/b2d transactions. (C) 2010-2020 Karl Walter Keirstead, P. Eng. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed here are those of the author, and are not connected with Jay-Kell Technologies Inc, Civerex Systems Inc. (Canada), Civerex Systems Inc. (USA), CvX Productions, Global Initiatives LLC or HNCT LLC Number of accessing countries 2010-2020/2/15 : 154
This entry was posted in Adaptive Case Management, Business Process Management, Case Management, Operations Management. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Your goal, my objective

  1. In various approaches objectives goals and targets are often interchanged. I have posted about this numerous times in relationship to ACM. I also like Russell Ackoffs definition as he is one of my favorite system thinkers. But one has to expand on his broader view to make them practical.

    In my writing (and in ACM) I use them this way:

    Objective: a larger direction or outcome desired in business, such as in a capability
    Goal: a clearly verifiable achievable of busines activity, either by rule or judgment
    Target: an enumerable value that describes indicators of business activity such as cost or time

    All of them can be hierarchicaly organized into sub- structures. But they also have interdependencies so that an objective can have a number of goals and targets defined.

    The explicit use of these definitions is ACMs key difference.In BPM these values are defined in process documentation only. BPM assumes that a designed process will achieve those values. ACM declares them and enables work to be performed until goals are met. If targets are also defined then it becomes transparent which processes are related to results.

    It is now easily visible if processes within a capability fufill strategic objectives.


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