Developing project aims

Why an aim statement is necessary

An aim statement provides a line of sight to a desired outcome; a clear aid to communicate to stakeholders what you are trying to achieve. It keeps improvement activity useful and purposeful by concentrating on the original purpose: identifying the key focus, keeping the scale manageable and providing a framework to help teams consider all important aspects of the improvement effort.

What makes a good aim statement

An aim statement should be concise. Think of it as a brief description which should clearly communicate what you intend to accomplish:

  • What you are trying to achieve
  • How much you want to achieve
  • When you want to achieve it by
  • Who will benefit from it

Your aim statement should be ambitious and stretching but realistic enough to be achievable; your aspirations must be balanced by ideas and theories of how you will reach the outcome.

 

How to plan your aim statement

A useful framework for planning an aim statement is STAN (Specific, Timebound, Aligned, Numeric). Using STAN helps teams to ensure they are considering all the crucial elements.

Specific

This relates to narrowing the focus and scale of your improvement effort and includes two important considerations: boundaries and outcome.

  1. Boundaries - which part of the healthcare system do you want to improve?  A boundary may relate to an environment, such as a particular ward, class or a reception area; to time, for example calls to a service on a Monday morning or a particular shift; or to population, such as a geographic area, gender or age group.
  2. Outcome – what does better look like? This relates to ‘how good?’ and involves exactly what you are trying to improve. Make sure it is articulated in a way that can be clearly understood by stakeholders. It is often described as the voice of the service user therefore should relate to better service user experience/outcomes.

Timebound

Setting a clear timeframe for achieving the goal relates to ‘by when?’ and provides a clear statement of intent to review progress. It also creates a purposeful focus for those involved in the improvement effort and helps with project planning.

Aligned

Consider what is the strategic vision and how does your aim link in to strategic objectives on a local, regional or national level. This is essential to consider, enabling you to justify the required resources for your particular improvement idea and promote support from influential senior managers or leaders; essential for making any change sustainable. It is not necessary to include this in your aim statement but it’s an important part of your project charter (link to tool).

Numeric

This allows us to determine when we have achieved the aim by attaching a quantifiable goal. This helps to focus the improvement work and provides a starting point for identifying change ideas and developing measurement plans by telling us ‘how good?’.