It is interesting to note that how people use these terms interchangeably and loosely all across.

ITIL V3 authors didn’t help much there, anyway - they have put all the three under one heading: “Purpose/Goal/Objective” and give three different statements for each of those – which in most of the cases is impossible to differentiate from each other – at least for goal and objective.

This has triggered a lot of discussion with my colleagues students and clients. I thought of noting some of the outputs from these discussions (with all due credits to those who contributed with great ideas on this).

A google search with the terms returned more than 1,650,000 results , many of them not relevant to the point.

 First, let us see some info I captured from that search – which looked logical to me, and in alignment with the outputs from the discussions I mentioned earlier:

  • A Purpose is a desired end result;  The reason why the (process, project, role or whatever the purpose is being written for) exists
  • Goals are broad objectives are narrow.
    Goals are general intentions; objectives are precise.
    Goals are intangible; objectives are tangible.
    Goals are abstract; objectives are concrete.
    Goals can’t be validated as is; objectives can be validated.
  • Purpose is usually single, goals usually single or two. Objectives can be multiple statements – basically representing actions that will lead to achievement of the specified goal.

Now, I tried my level best to arrive at some examples (along with some thoughts that have been borrowed from friends) -

Example 1: I am deciding to start jogging in the morning from tomorrow (Not really, just imagine :-))

The Purpose: To reduce my body weight to within ‘normal’ limits

The Goal: Reduce my body weight by 5 kgs in the next one month (not sure if this is feasible or nonsense – again, hypothetical!)

The Objectives:

  1. Jog for at least ‘X’ km every day.
  2. Jog at a minimum speed of  ‘Y’ kmph.
  3. Jog at least for 5 days in a week

Now, from the above example, the objectives are measurable actions that aligns with the goal that has been set, in the context of the overall purpose.

Example 2 ( A more closer one to our subject):

Organization A is planning go for ISO/IEC 20000 certification.

Purpose: To enhance customer/market credibility and image.


  1. Achieve ISO/IEC 20000 certification for the service management by August 2009
  2. Demonstrate measurable improvement in the service delivery to customers from the initiative


For Goal1 :

  • Manage the complete certification initiative as a formal project, with an assigned project manager
  • Ensure planning and management of the initiative as a project with clear milestones, ensuring the completion of certification by August 2009
  • Ensure enough resources and capabilities are assigned and empowered to ensure successful completion of the project on time

For Goal 2:

  • Conduct a current state assessment and plan for measurable improvement areas and targets
  • Create a clear framework of metrics/KPIs and measurement mechanism
  • Focus on improvement actions within the initiative that will enable achievement of the metrics/KPI targets.

Makes sense? Looking back, I am not completely sure about it.

Any of you who have a better idea of fine-tuning this, most welcome. Please feel free to comment!

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