Basics first! 3 simple measures every PM can apply

Sometimes it seems so hard getting a project or program organized. It feels like a constant struggle and when things become really complex we often tend to focus on just dealing with that complexity and because of that forgetting the basics.

In these situations, apparently the logical thing to do is then so obvious, that we simply overlook to deal with the basics first. It’s by applying the basics that we can often prevent things becoming too complex to handle in the first place.

Let’s start with projects first: As a project manager, what are the three ever important basics that apply to all projects which you should ensure being organized? Use the simple list below and you will have installed the basics for your project success.

1. Clear Project Objective versus Business Goal

Don’t mix these up and make sure you understand both:

  • The Project Objective (What is finished when the project is finished?)
  • as well as The Business Goal (Why are we doing the project? The realization of which Benefits will this project enable?).

The first one (Project Objective) will define the scope of your project and help you and the team to set boundaries. Keeping your focus on delivering that (and just that!). The second one (Project Goal) will provide you with the right context and direction for planning. Subsequently realizing the ‘right project’. Trying to do the wrong project the right way will of course never lead to a success…..

It’s like with Alice in Wonderland, where Alice asks- “Where should I go?" The Cheshire Cat answers "That depends on where you want to end up." Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass. So before ‘jumping’ into projects, it’s better to think first, where you want to end up. Without that the chance is high that you will end up nowhere.

2. Good teams make good projects

People create successful projects, but projects also support people in learning new skills and growing in their competences. It’s often amazing to see the projects which ‘volunteer based’ organizations can realize. The key driver of the people involved is their own motivation; because of the contribution they deliver, the work itself, the team they work with, and most of all the fun while doing it. If a project environment allows for that we will quickly see that the project and the team are ‘in flow’. This is in contrast with controlled environments, which try to push projects and people to unreasonable commitments and add more control if they don’t show immediate progress.

“The greater the loyalty of a group toward the group, the greater is the motivation among the members to achieve the goals of the group, and the greater the probability that the group will achieve its goals.” ― Rensis Likert

3. Knowing the key stakeholders as well as their understanding (and criteria) of the project’s success

If you understand the key stakeholders’ interests and needs you can consistently drive your project forward and succeed by respecting and meeting their key requirements. Of course Scope, Time, Cost, … are all important but as long as you ensure that the key stakeholders are happy with the project outcome you have succeeded. This may sound simple but is ever so true!

PMI’s Pulse of the Profession™ In-Depth Report: ‘Navigating Complexity’ (September 2013) states that, regardless of the degree of complexity, next to having good project management practices, and a strong talent base, effective communications, are necessary for project and program success.

So put yourself in the position of the key stakeholders and plan and deliver the project as they would have imagined it themselves. Frequent communication and aligning with them about your way forward is the best way to build their support and trust. Lack of communication and because of that no shared understanding typically leads to mistrust, and therefore, the need for more control, leading to even more mistrust, etc…

In short, by consistently applying the above three basics in project management, you will always have a solid fundament for working towards your project success.

I wish you happy projects!

Photo by Tela Chhe

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