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An objective is something that a decision maker seeks to accomplish or to obtain by means of his decision. A decision maker may have more than one objective (the MULTIPLE-OBJECTIVES case).

An objective may be specified in a more or less general Fashion, may be quantified or not quantified, and is usually part of a hierarchy of objectives. The term goal is sometimes used to denote a very general objective( at the top of the hierarchy) and TARGET is used to mean a very definite objective. Example: "The goal of allocating money to the municipality was to increase the quality of urban life. The immediate objectives were to improve public transportation and fire services. A 10% reduction of average travel time from home to work and a 70% decrease of average alarm-to-action time taken by the fire brigades were set forth as targets."

The multiple objectives of a single decision maker are usually COMPETITIVE: i.e. the improvement in one of them is associated with a deterioration in another (usually because of limited resources or because of other constraintS). Competitive objectives are sometimes referred to as CONFLICTING objectives. However, one should speak about a conflict and about conflicting objectives only if there are two or more decision makers who have different objectives and who act on the same system or share the same resources. In the example given above, the director of urban transportation and the director of city fire services have conflicting objectives. At the same time, the mayor of the city, if he were the single decision maker, would look at these objectives as competitive. If the two directors are left without a coordinating influence by the mayor (who would, for example, decide how to allocate the resources), a CONFLICT SITUATION may result. (See game theory.) With the mayor's interventions, the system becomes a hierarchy of decision makers, and the conflict may be resolved. When the extent to which an objective is attained is measurable on some appropriate scale, one can speak about the degree of attainment of the objective. In systems analysis, one often uses [PROXY OBJECTIVES:] objectives other the original ones, but such that are measurable and can be quantitatively discussed. A proxy objective should at least point in the same direction as the original one; for example, "reduction of mean travel time" in urban transportation is a proxy for "improved services." In a mathematical description, the measures of the multiple objectives Q1, Q2, ...Qn are considered to be coordinates of a point in the n-dimensional OBJECTIVE space. Then, the TARGET values Tl, T2,...Tn prescribed for the n objectives are considered to be coordinates of the TARGET POINT in this space. When the target value requirements are set forth as some intervals rather than single Numbers, they define a region in the objective space that is referred to as a TARGET SET. (IIASA)

Something to which an effort is directed, the goal (see goal oriented), purpose or CRITERION a decision maker uses to evaluate alternative courses of actions. The choice of objectives constrains (see constraint) possible behaviors. (Krippendorff)
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