Stating Objectives

Next you’ll want to turn your brainstormed list into a set of concise objectives. Keep it simple. Objectives need only state two things:

  • the thing that matters
  • the direction you’d like it to move (more vs. less)

For example, objectives of park management plan may be to:

  • Maximize Recreation Opportunities
  • Minimize Net Management Cost
  • Maximize Protection of Wildlife Habitat

Objectives of a recovery plan for a species at risk may include:

  • Minimize the Probability of Extirpation
  • Minimize Management Cost
  • Minimize Impacts on Other Species
  • Minimize Loss of Tourism Income.

Avoid use of objectives with an ambiguous direction (e.g. “Optimize chlorine concentration in the pool”). If there are problems from having too much or too little of something, break apart the original objective into its subcomponents to expose the trade offs that are inherent in the word ‘optimize’.

e.g. Instead of: “Optimize chlorine levels in the pool”

Use both:

  • “Minimize spread of disease in the pool”
  • “Minimize irritation of swimmers caused by water treatment”

Don’t be put off by the terminology of ‘maximize’ and ‘minimize’; these words are used because they clarify the preferred direction of change (e.g. more or less is better). For example, you needn’t worry that “maximize the number of white sturgeon in the Columbia River” may lead to the unwanted situation of too many of these endangered fish causing a problem – it’s obviously not going to happen – and if it were, then just state whatever objectives would be compromised by having too many sturgeon (loss of other species?)

Key Ideas

  • Objectives only need to state the thing that matters, and what direction you’d like it to move
  • Make sure all objectives have a single, clear direction that can be understood by everyone