Apr 19 / Benjamin Schumann

Clear objectives

This week, I want to start our series on 12 core points that a simulation modeller needs to keep in mind when working with clients. These points were formulated by Dave Sturrock on the Simio Blog.

"Clear objectives: A simulationist can help stakeholders discover and refine their objectives, but clearly the stakeholders must agree on project objectives. The primary objective must remain solid throughout the project."

I will pick out two themes from this statement: First, objectives need to be clear. Second, they must remain visible throughout a project.

There is a good reason why this is the first item on the list: clear objectives are critical. It’s self-evident that you need objectives to agree on a project. However, the very first step to ensure project success is to make those easy to understand, follow and agreeable. I find that a good marker to check if your objectives are clear is to put yourself into the position of the boss that did not attend your meetings: She is aware of your project and found some time to review the initial meeting minutes where you agreed objectives. Will she be able to understand them without all the implicit communication that occurred in your meeting? Check the two statements below:

  • Simulationist Inc. will provide a model of factory X of ClientCo Ltd.
  • Simulationist Inc. will provide a model that comprises the new layout of factory X (level 1) of Client Co. It includes the machinery of type Y but excludes other floors and machines of type Z.

All too often, the former statement prevails. The reason is that implicit communication and agreements are very powerful. It is so easy to agree without noting it down. Make a conscious effort to overcome this bias.


Let’s examine the second theme: your clear objectives must remain the central pillar of your project. To some extent, this is a truism but all too often, they are the first to go.  I found it is good practice to do a weekly review of what you did towards your project and align it with your agreed objectives. By that, I mean to go through each piece of work and ask yourself: Did this move the project towards its objectives? And if so, how?

Consider the example we talked about above: Last week, you started to develop the model and draw the factory layout. Did this go towards your objectives? I’d say so. Now say, your client asked you to do some research to see if machinery of type Y (we agreed to exclude it) might be useful after all. With clear objectives, you will easily judge that this work did not help achieve your agreed objectives. However, had you only agreed on the non-clear objectives, you might be tempted to count this research to help your objectives, right?

This is not to say that you should be a machine that is totally focused on your objectives. Your overarching objective is to help your client so by all means help in investigating that other machine type if the situation allows for that. But in your weekly review, be clear that this activity did not help you in your project objectives. This will help focusing your efforts and improve communication with your client.


Clear objectives are critical. Ensure you focus on precise formulation and revisit your objectives at least weekly.
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