National Park Service
Heritage Preservation Services   —   Historic Preservation Planning Program
Phoenix, Arizona Bird's Eye View, 1885

Planning Companion

Typical Planning Process
Introduction »

Planning & Historic Contexts »

Comprehensive? »

scale »

scope »

Step 1.
Planning for Planning »

Step 2.
Creating a Vision »

Step 3.
Understanding the Resources »

Step 4.
Other Planning Factors »

Step 5.
Issues and Opportunities »

Step 6.
Goals and Objectives

Step 7.
Implementation Strategies »

Step 8.
Producing the Plan »

Step 9.
Implementating the Plan »

Step 10.
Revising the Plan »

Sources of
Information »

Return to...

    Companion »

    Planning Home »

    Services »

NPS Cultural
    Resources »

A Typical Planning Process

Step 6. How Will We Achieve Our Vision? Developing Goals and Objectives

The purpose of developing goals and objectives is to outline a course of action that will help us achieve our vision of the future for valued historic and cultural resources.

Goals and objectives do this by outlining strategies, priorities, and actions designed to resolve issues, minimize threats, and take advantage of opportunities identified during the planning process.

Goals and objectives also build upon goals and priorities identified in historic context documents, other technical studies, and other planning documents.

Goals and objectives should be broad-reaching enough to achieve our vision of the preservation future, and yet detailed enough to guide decision-making on a regular basis.


A goal is a general statement of future condition considered desirable for the planning area. It is an end toward which actions are aimed. A goal also helps define a step toward reaching the long-term vision for preservation in the community. A goal is usually not achieved in the immediate future; it has a long-term focus. Goals provide the basis for action by defining the scope and content of the ends to be achieved.

There are typically two kinds of goals:

  1. Those that are never fully and completely achieved. Action taken to achieve the goal is ongoing. For example:
  2. Increase the level of public knowledge about cultural resources.

  3. Goals that describe a future condition that can be fully achieved, but in the far-distant future. For example:
  4. Incorporate historic preservation as an element in local, regional, state agency, and federal land management plans.

Crafting Goal Statements

Writing goal statements merits careful attention so they clearly communicate what you intend. Then goals will truly help guide our actions toward achieving our vision – our desired future. Clearly stated goals also help us measure our progress toward that future.

Single Message.  Goal statements should be concise and contain a single outcome.

  • For example, the following goal statement is really two separate goals:
  • Identify and protect historic resources, and increase public awareness of the community’s heritage.

  • This statement should be split into two separate statements:
  • Identify and protect historic resources.  and

    Increase public awareness of the community’s heritage.

Level of Detail.  Details and suggested approaches for achieving that outcome should not be included in the goal statement. Some of this kind of information might be appropriate to include in the objective statements. The level of detail in goal and objective statements will depend upon the scope and scale of the plan, and the length of its planning cycle. For example, a statewide plan covering all cultural resources in the state with a ten-year planning cycle can contain more general goal and objective statements than a neighborhood historic builidng plan with a five-year planning cycle could be. The narrower the scope and scale, and the shorter the planning cycle, the more detailed and strategic the goals and objectives can be.

  • Too General.  Protect significant heritage resources. This is actually the purpose of a preservation plan or program.
  • Too Specific.  Conduct a field survey of Milltown’s 18th-century section. This is either an objective statement or an annual work plan task, depending upon the level of detail to be included in the plan.
  • About Right:
    • Increase the level of public knowledge and appreciation of the community’s history, and its historic places and cultural sites.
      • Note: This is the first type of goal mentioned above - it is never fully achieved. Public knowledge can always be increased, no matter how much educational programming is done.

    • Integrate historic preservation into local government agency plans and the local comprehensive plan.
      • Note: This is the second type of goal mentioned above – it is achievable in the long term. At some point in the future, all these plans could contain preservation policies and goals.

Use Action Verbs.  Goal statements typically begin with a verb, as in the previous examples. Goal verbs usually represent some sort of action that can be taken in a particular direction – such as, increase, decrease, improve, strengthen, conduct, reduce develop, celebrate, designate, and other similar forward-looking, action-oriented verbs.

Verbs to Avoid.  Some verbs can be ambiguous and should be avoided.

  • Cheerleading Verbs.  Verbs such as encourage, promote, and foster tend to focus narrowly on one type of activity or tool that can be used to achieve the goal. Cheerleading in preservation is always good, and cheerleading verbs can be appropriate in goal or objective statements that deal with public relations, publicity, and celebration kinds of activities. But when these verbs are used in place of a more relevant action verb, the intended outcome is unclear. Focus the goal or objective statement on the intended outcome, instead.
    • Consider, for example, a goal statement that reads, Encourage the preparation of National Register nominations.
    • Encouragement is only one of many strategies that could be used to generate National Register nominations.
    • It is not the only strategy, however, and encouragement alone does not get the nominations prepared. If everyone is encouraging the preparation of National Register nominations, who is actually preparing them?
    • A more effective goal statement might be – Increase National Register nominations.

  • Help and Support Verbs.  Verbs such as support, assist, help, provide, assist, and similar kinds of verbs imply that a single organization is taking action. When these verbs are used, the desired outcome seems to be the act of helping or supporting rather than achieving a resource preservation outcome. Unless the preservation plan is an organizational plan, these verbs should be avoided. If the intended outcome is for those receiving the support to increase or improve preservation activity, the goal statement should be written to state this clearly.
    • For example, the goal statement Support increased funding for the Main Street Program, might be more clearly written as - Increase funding for the Main Street Program.
    • Some organizations might support this activity, while others might seek sources of funding, and still others might establish a trust fund.

  • Verbs that Maintain the Status Quo.  Goal statements that begin with Continue to [do]... or Maintain signal a desire to keep doing what we've been doing, we don't need to change anything. If all we want to do is continue as we are, we don't need a plan to help us do that. The plan should help move us from where we are to where we want to be - our desired future for preservation. A goal that says stay the course doesn't do much to move us toward our desired future. If, however, continuing on is the appropriate strategy, there is no need to use these verbs. The verb that accompanies the "continue to [do]" statement is the appropriate verb.

Verbs to Avoid

Advocate for
Collaborate with
Partner with
Seek to...
Strive to...
Work to...
Work with

Watch Out For...
in order to...


"Use This Tool" Format.  This method of structuring a goal statement prescribes the tool to be used in achieving the goal. A characteristic of this format is the use of the phrase in order to or another similar. Such a statement typically identifies a specific tool at the beginning of the goal statement, connected by the in order to phrase to a concluding phrase that describes the intended outcome. A goal in this format can limit flexibility in choice of tools or strategies used to achieve the intended outcome. A goal should clearly state the intended outcome without dictating the tool or strategy to be used.

  • For example, Use advanced technology in order to manage historic resource information effectively.
  • Here, the focus is on the phrase appearing first in the statement: Use technology.
  • The actual goal is manage historic information effectively. Using advanced technology may be just one way of achieving that goal.
  • Mentioning a specific strategy or tool in the goal statement can be confusing because it isn’t clear if the goal is really about using the tool, or if the tool mentioned is the only one that should be used for the purpose of accomplishing the in order to phrase.


An objective is a statement of measurable activity to be accomplished in pursuit of a goal.

An objective describes a specific outcome that is reasonably attainable and necessary to meet a goal.

Objectives should be more detailed than goals, but they are not the equivalent of quantifiable, measurable, time-sensitive tasks typically found in an annual work plan.

Typically, there are several objectives for each goal. Both short-term and long-term objectives can be established, such as objectives to be accomplished in 2-3 years, and in 3-5 years.

Objectives are also phrased using verbs that denote action and direction. As with goal statements, the phrasing of objective statements also requires careful attention so that they say exactly what you intend them to say. The guidance presented above for goals is also applicable to crafting objective statements.

  • Too General.   Improve the effectiveness of preservation tools and techniques. This is actually a good goal statement.
  • Too Specific.  Prepare and present a paper at the annual statewide preservation conference The History of the George C. Smith House.” This could be a task.
  • About Right:
    • Develop and implement a heritage education program in the public schools.
    • Participate on state agency planning teams to incorporate preservation concerns.

Additional guidance on Developing Goals can be found in Sources of Additional Information — just click on the menu link to the left. Also see Goal Setting from our Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program's Community Toolbox.

Go to Step 7»

National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior FOIA Privacy Disclaimer FirstGov