A system is basically goal directed, that is, it exists to satisfy a specific set of needs, wants, or desires. Goals can be classified in several ways.
Some goals are short term, meaning that the needs are immediate, whereas others are long term . Of course, the difference between the two is a matter of judgment. From a project perspective, a short-term goal might mean satisfying a milestone date during the current phase. A long-term goal might mean meeting the final completion date.
Some goals are explicit while others are implicit. An explicit goal is obvious and clearly stated, such as finish a project by June 31. Other goals are implicit, meaning that they cannot be clearly articulated and measured. An example is a deliverable evaluated by a customer that involves an evaluative judgment, e.g., meets customer satisfaction.
Goals can be internal or external. An internal goal satisfies a need determined internally, such as a methodology implemented to streamline the technical performance of a project. An external goal is dictated outside the boundaries of a system. An example is when executive management requires that projects satisfy goals elaborated in a corporate vision statement as well as those identified in a project charter.
As mentioned earlier, a system consists of objects. An object is a distinct entity within a system. It may be a person, organization, or machine. The behavior of the objects influences the output of a system to varying degrees. On a project, an object might include different stakeholders or automated tools.
Each object has attributes, or qualities, that distinguish it from other objects. Some attributes are constants; they never change. Other attributes are variable; they change for various reasons. Variables often reflect certain parameters, reflecting ranges. These ranges are reflected in states that indicate different grades of conditions. An example on a project is a team member who possesses certain skills that may need improvement, depending on conditions.
Often objects within a system have varying degrees of freedom. These degrees of freedom represent the latitude granted to exercise decisions and actions within the constraints imposed or granted. An example is the level of delegated authority granted to a project manager to make certain types of decisions.