What are goal and aim statements and why are they important?


QI Spotlight icon A good goal statement is a basic starting point for teams or individuals to plan their work and identify whether it is successful—goal statements are fundamental for success. A properly detailed and documented goal statement completely defines the result that an organization seeks to produce. It describes the purpose, outcome, or activity that must be accomplished.

Public health has used a form of goal statement, known as an "aim statement," as a starting point for its improvement cycle (Plan, Do, Study, Act) and improvement projects for many years. Different formats exist with various prompting questions and comprehensiveness of content.

These formats have generally prompted users to investigate

  1. What do you seek to accomplish?
  2. Who is the target population?
  3. How will you know that an improvement has been made (or, what is the specific measure you seek to achieve)?
  4. What changes can you make that will result in improvement?

What are the components of a complete goal and aim statements?


Puzzle pieces: To, For, By, So That, Standards, Conditions
The result that the goal must produce: This always begins with "TO" and identifies the object to be transformed and the final state it should be in when the goal is realized. It determines what result, purpose, or outcome is desired.
The beneficiaries of the goal: Who benefits from the results? What is the scope?
How will you achieve the desired results? What is the approach you will use to solve the problem (not the solutions)?
The benefits the result will produce for each beneficiary of the goal: This identifies how a beneficiary will be better off once "TO" is achieved. What are the benefits from achieving the goal?
How will you judge whether an improvement has been made? What will be measured? How will it be measured? What is the target? Always include the date or time by which the improvement is to be achieved.
What requirements or limitations exist? Is the availability of resources restricted? Does the goal have to be completed by a certain date? Does it require certain actions (e.g., use of an existing computer system)? Does it have an existing protocol that must be followed?

How are good goal and aim statements developed?

Chris Bujak portrait
Chris Bujak

Plan: Before you start to draft a goal statement, it often helps to first understand what prompted the opportunity. How is this goal linked to the organization’s strategy or a larger goal? Linkage to a larger purpose can often be found in the organization’s quality improvement plan or via interviews with leadership.

Do: Draft your goal statement (six components) using the previously described guidance and attached template.

Study: Once you have drafted your goal statement, test it.

Act: Document, communicate, and start to use your goal statement during each phase of the improvement process.

Examples from PHQIX

Many examples of well-focused QI Initiatives have been submitted to PHQIX. The following table lists examples of initiatives on which PHQIX Expert Panel reviewers have remarked about the clarity of the aim statement and the extent that the initiative was well-focused. The aim statements presented in these initiatives are not all structured exactly the same; however, they all contain the components of good goal/aim statements described above.

Project Title
NNPHI Kaizen Program: Death Certificate Filing
Operation Chuck Wagon: Permitting Unlicensed Mobile Food Vendors
Preventing Unintended Secondary Pregnancies in Women Receiving Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Services
Improving the Retention Rate of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children Clients in Yellowstone County, Montana
NNPHI Kaizen Program: Processing Low-Priority Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Reports
Reducing Tobacco Use Among Pregnant WIC Clients by Increasing Enrollment in Tobacco Cessation Programs

Think about the goal/aim statements that you have created. Do they address all of the items covered in the examples? Take advantage of learning from others. What will you improve for the next one?

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