Project management text books and standards can make project management seem overly complex and difficult – hard to visualize. But that doesn’t have to be the case. In the next series of posts we’re going to review a simple structure for managing projects – the ten D’s of project management. We’re going to start with the first, and most important D, which is Definition.
If a family member, Chris, comes to you and says, “Can you get some food for a meal?”, you would probably ask Chris some questions like “When is this meal?”, “How many people?”, “What type of cuisine?”. And yet, in the business world, many people jump in the car and start driving to the store before they think to ask these questions. Which means they are trying to reach Chris on the phone from the car, on the way Whole Foods, only to find out that Chris is really thinking about Chinese takeout . Or they jump into recipe planning for beef-stew, forgetting that Chris is vegetarian.
So we need project Definition. You need some kind of project Definition document, perhaps a Project Charter. Your Definition document needs to address questions like:
- What is the project going to achieve?
- Why should we do this project now?
- Who is involved, and impacted by, this project?
- What assumptions have been made about the project?
Not Detailed Planning!
Notice that this is not detailed planning. Your Definition document should be short. We are not planning seating arrangements or even recipe ingredients at this point – that comes later. This is about documenting a need for a meal, for 4 people, one evening next week at Chris’s house, to celebrate a friend’s birthday, bearing in mind that Chris’s stove is broken, one of the attendees is vegetarian, and another one has a nut allergy.
Notice also that we need to define how we will know the project is done. Are you thinking Chris wants you to cook the food, or just buy it? What about serving the food and then doing dishes? Is that part of the project, or not? Are you done when the guests sit down to eat, or when you leave Chris’s house with left-overs? Many organizations do a poor job defining what project completion looks like, and so it’s no wonder that people disagree about whether the project was successfully completed.
So that’s the first D of project management, Definition. The next post will discuss the second D, which is Detail.