First and foremost, let's not get into the debate "difference between Goals and Objectives". Let's look at the driving force and what are we going to focus on. Goals and objectives give us purpose that we can focus on and work towards achieving it. Every action that you will take, should be intended & designed to move the project forward along the goals, to achieve success.
What should be your project goals as a project manager?
It is a universal truth that almost every project is *blessed* with limited resources (skilled people, financials, time, etc.). And project manager has to deliver project with these limited resources. It is not surprising though - given the fact that any organization has certain resources in place and project managers compete among themselves for more resources.
The goal of project managers is to optimally utilize resources s/he has been able to secure. It is not just a goals but also a test of your skill to make the most of available people, financial provision and available time; skill to identify right fit of available skillset to project activities and getting things done.
Without a doubt this is the most sought after goal project managers have. It is so common to see project managers CV claiming 'delivered projects on time, within budget'.
Once you keep this goal in mind and you will perform every activity, follow up with resources, customers every day to deliver project on time and within budget. Managing project schedule on time is a unique exercise; many project planners have goose bumps when project kicks off, and that's when rubber meets the road. Scheduling activities, tracking timeline, resource assignment, understanding bottlenecks, issues/incidents needs meticulous approach.
Similarly many people consider successfully managing project financial is really the bottom line to project success. Having enough budget, identifying & taming cost escalation during project execution are the keys to ensure project is delivered within budget.
Above all - project being delivered on time, I think - it is utmost important for project managers to realize that we have to deliver benefits, value to customer. If customer is able to derive business benefit from the delivery of project, that's what I'd call a REAL SUCCESS.
There have been plenty examples that projects were delivered on time, within budget but those failed to meet expectations of customers. What's the point of having everyone worked on that project? e.g. customer wanted a ERP system so that it can spare its resources on right activities and if ERP system implementation requires rigorous training, tedious interface work, performance issues then are you really saving time for those resources or pushing them into another problem?
And this is what a good project manager understands well - get sense of customer's definition of project success, having regular communication with customer and stakeholders to assess benefits, value being delivered. If project manager can focus on all those aspects to deliver benefits to customers, without a doubt s/he will be highly regarded.
Is there anything called perfect project? Or even perfect project delivery? Some projects will hit the wall, some will run against major odds and blocks, beyond our control. Despite of these s, hurdles some great project managers and amazing team would be able to turn these projects around and bring them back on track.
There will be failures too. But that shouldn't stop you from learning out of the failure. The another important goal of a project manager is to
So all in all, if the goal of a project is to learn, improve and evolve with newer practices that will make project delivery process lesser chaotic and more predictable, that's what organizations should aim for.