By Chris Pennington.
In my previous blog about project success, I stated that projects are used to change the status quo of an organisation’s operations by either increasing or decreasing variables with the organisation.
We will now turn our attention to help the process of defining a project’s objectives. Defining why we undertake projects in clear and simple language is critical to the successful outcome of a project.
Often we hear of projects which have lost their way or taken on a life of their own. In many cases this arises from poorly defined objectives, since the project team themselves fail to associate the work they are undertaking with the end result.
Having a systematic approach and common terminology can aid the process of defining a project’s objectives. We’ve already establishedin the previous post that the drivers in a business can be described as 1) Money, 2) Experience and 3) Frequency. Now, the way in which change can impact one (or more) of these drivers can be split into the following seven categories:
Furthermore, a business has four dimensions: People, Process, Culture and Technology. It can also help to set project objectives which draw a linkage across each of these dimensions to influence the drivers. The following workflow helps to describe and categorise the linkages which will drive change within a business.
Finally, project objectives need to be measurable. Here comes the hard work. Some measures can be definitive and gathering the raw data relative easy, e.g increasing monthly sales by 20%. Yet, many variables within a business are vague or hard to quantify. It is the those more intangible measures which often see the activity of objective setting get pushed aside, e.g. How do you measure the collaboration of colleagues?
There is no magic remedy, and in many cases the intangible objectives will prove too difficult to quantify. The best way to proceed is to document the current situation. This is a crude way of benchmarking the status quo. Listing out the problems and challenges that face an organisation in a particular area is often the best means to establish qualitative rather than quantitative measures. The descriptions themselves may form the benchmark measure, or indeed the process of documenting helps clarify the position and leads to new measures.
Ultimately, what is important is to document the benchmark position. Since a project is defined as changing the status quo, make sure records are kept that reflect the starting position. This will then be used as a basis of comparison, both throughout the project and after its completion.