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An objective is a goal that needs to be achieved.

Under both UK and EU law, a company must state what it is in business to do - this is known as its overall aim and it can be embodied in a mission statement. This is often a simple and memorable sentence which explains what the organisation is in business to do and what it wants to achieve. A mission statement can often be found in the front of a company's annual report and it is, effectively, a summary of its day-to-day activities and long-term objectives, showing a sense of underlying purpose and direction.

It is often argued that mission statements are best when they are simple and informal. For example:

Ford Motor Company PLC "...is a worldwide leader in automative products and services, as well as in newer industries such as aerospace and communications. Our mission is to improve continually and meet our customers' needs, allowing us to prosper as a business and to provide a reasonable return for our shareholders."

Cadbury Schweppes PLC "...is a major international company with a clear focus on its two core businesses - confectionery and beverages. Our quality brands are bought and enjoyed in more than 110 countries around the world..."

The Body Shop PLC "...to dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change..."

A good mission statement should be clearly defined, realistic and achievable, and at the same time it should ensure that the employees' attention is focussed towards the overall company aim.

Mission statements normally express the organisation's objectives in qualitative terms, (as opposed to quantitative, that is, facts and figures) and many businesses include the following variables in their mission statement: their number one priority, their product definitions, their non-financial objectives and their overall values and beliefs.

Although many people view mission statements as a focus for employees and for other stakeholders, they are still viewed by their critics as nothing more than a publicity seeking exercise.

It is important to understand how business ojectives 'fit in' with business aims and strategies.

-An aim states what you want

-An objectives set out what you need to have achieved to get what you want

-A strategy is a course of action which enables you to meet your objectives.

In order for objectives to be effective, they must:

1.provide detail about what specifically needs to be achieved (often in a quantitative form)

2.have a time limit by when they need to have been achieved

3.need to state the necessary resources that they require in order to be met.

Setting clearly defined and realistic objectives will enable many employees to understand exactly what their job entails and achieving clearly stated objectives might be linked to bonus payments - this can easily act as an incentive and motivator to employees.

A primary objective is an ultimate long-term goal of the business (e.g. survival, profit maximisation, diversification and growth). They are often referred to as strategic objectives.

A secondary objective is a day-to-day objective, and it makes a direct contribution to meeting the primary objectives (e.g. increase sales by 5% each year, keep labour turnover at less than 4%). They are often referred to as Tactical objectives.

Private sector

Private sector objectives will often differ considerably from objectives set in the public sector. Profit maximisation is often quoted as the over-riding objective for businesses in the private sector. This will involve trying to produce at the point where there is the maximum difference between the firm's total revenue and its total cost - resulting in large dividend payments for the shareholders. However, it is far more likely that businesses will aim to profit satisfy rather than profit maximise (that is, they will aim to earn a satisfactory level of profits to keep shareholders content, and then use the remaining resources to pursue other objectives such as diversification and growth).

Another objective in the private sector, for a rapidly growing business, may well be to maximise sales (or sales revenue) and so increase their market share in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Many businesses set objectives to improve their image and to appear more socially responsible and environmentally friendly - this is often achieved through strategies of recycling materials, sponsoring local events and strictly adhering to all employee legislation (e.g. pay levels, Health & Safety, discrimination, etc.).

Public sector

Public sector objectives have, traditionally, been centred around providing a public service, rather than make a profit (e.g. when British Gas was a public corporation it had to provide gas supplies to all areas of the UK, many of which were isolated and very unprofitable for the organisation). This regularly led to loss-making organisations being subsidised by the government, and complacency crept in with regards to customer service, quality levels and response times. However, in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s, a massive privatisation programme by the government was implemented and many large utilities such as British Gas, British Telecom and the Electricity Boards were sold to the private sector.

The remaining public sector organisations were told to run in a more cost-efficient manner and to improve the quality of their services to consumers. Performance targets were set for many Local Health Authorities, Local Education Authorities and council services in an attempt to make them more accountable, to reduce their costs and to improve the quality of their output.

Short-term objectives will often differ from long-term objectives, especially if the business is experiencing poor financial performance at present. A short-term objective may be to consolidate, or even simply to survive the difficult trading conditions that it is experiencing. Once this has been achieved and the business has stabilised its performance, then it may well look to achieve its long-term objective of diversification into new products and new markets, or growth through amalgamation.

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