Skip links and keyboard navigation

Define objectives

Once the components, processes, services, values, beneficiaries and pressures on the values are identified and documented, it is possible to set objectives for a program of work. It is important to define and document the objectives and any assumptions of a program of work to ensure that management interventions are directly linked to desired outcomes and that progress can be measured against the objective[3]. Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based (SMART) objectives should be set at the appropriate temporal and spatial scale.

Whole-of-System, Values-Based framework locator diagram

The following principles (adapted from Structured Decision Making[2] and SMART[1] criteria) should be considered when defining objectives using the Whole-of-System, Values-Based Framework:

  • ensure that objectives are specific to the system being managed (e.g. have the objectives been developed to address the specific pressures/goals for the system being managed?)
  • determine performance indicators that are measurable (what can performance be quantified by?)
  • co-design objectives with relevant beneficiaries and other stakeholders to ensure that their values have been considered (e.g. have the people who value this system been included in the planning process? What do they view as important?) and that the objective is achievable for the system
  • directly link objectives to a management goal (e.g. what is the project intending to achieve?) that is relevant to the components, processes, and services of the system
  • develop objectives for the appropriate time frames (e.g. short-term and/or long-term) and spatial scales (e.g. will the objectives achieve the intended outcomes in the preferred time frame and spatial scale?)
  • use the best-available social, cultural, economic and biophysical knowledge (e.g. scientific, Traditional Knowledge) to develop evidence-based objectives (e.g. what evidence has been used to ensure that the objectives are appropriate for the social-ecological system?)
  • develop objectives that can be adapted to new learnings and changes within the system (e.g. how might the objectives change when new knowledge becomes available?)[2]
  • ensure objectives are clearly documented, and assumptions and risks are clearly defined
Identify and compare alternative objectives and how these alternatives may impact economic, social, cultural, and biophysical aspects of the system (e.g. what other objectives may help achieve the management goal?  What impact will these objectives have on the broader system?)

An example of a measurable objective could be maximising access to culturally significant waterways (e.g. measured by frequency of access), or maximising the abundance and diversity of fish in a river or wetland (e.g. measured by availability of spawning habitat, catch diversity)[2].


  1. ^ Bjerke, MB & Renger, R (April 2017), 'Being smart about writing SMART objectives', Evaluation and Program Planning. [online], vol. 61, pp. 125-127. Available at: [Accessed 26 May 2022].
  2. ^ a b c Structured decision making: a practical guide to environmental management choices (2012), p. 299, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, West Sussex ; Hoboken, N.J, eds. R Gregory, L Failing, M Harstone, G Long & T McDaniels.
  3. ^ Tear, TH, Kareiva, P, Angermeier, PL, Comer, P, Czech, B, Kautz, R, Landon, L, Mehlman, D, Murphy, K, Ruckelshaus, M, Scott, JM & Wilhere, G (2005), 'How Much Is Enough? The Recurrent Problem of Setting Measurable Objectives in Conservation', BioScience. [online], vol. 55, no. 10, p. 835. Available at: [Accessed 17 November 2021].

Last updated: 30 June 2022

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2022) Define objectives, WetlandInfo website, accessed 18 March 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation