Without a clear understanding of what a future policy is supposed to achieve, it is difficult to identify possible courses of action, and even more difficult to compare policy options. Objectives provide the only effective criteria for assessing the success or failure of the proposed policy options. Without clear objectives it is also impossible to monitor implementation of the policy and to evaluate whether it has produced the desired effects. Finally, setting objectives is a key step in determining the level of ambition of any policy and in linking it to existing Community policies. You should screen all objectives in terms of subsidiarity and proportionality.
Your objectives should be directly related to the problem and its root causes. They should be ‘SMART’ – it may not be possible to make them all fully SMART, but you should aim to satisfy as many of the criteria as possible. SMART-objectives should be:
- Specific: objectives should be precise and concrete enough not to be open to varying interpretations. They must be understood similarly by all.
- Measurable: objectives should define a desired future state in measurable terms, so that it is possible to verify whether the objective has been achieved or not. Such objectives are either quantified or based on a combination of description and scoring scales.
- Achievable: if objectives and target levels are to influence behavior, those who are responsible for them must be able to achieve them.
- Realistic: objectives and target levels should be ambitious – setting an objective that only reflects the current level of achievement is not useful – but they should also be realistic so that those responsible see them as meaningful.
- Time-dependent: objectives and target levels remain vague if they are not related to a fixed date or time period.