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Project Management Is Organized Common Sense

I keep things simple and intuitive. One way to simply and intuitively define project management is that it is a set of tools, templates, and processes designed to answer the following six questions:

  1. What business situation is being addressed by this project?
  2. What do you need to do?
  3. What will you do?
  4. How will you do it?
  5. How will you know you did it?
  6. How well did you do?

Let's quickly look at the answers to these questions.

1. What Business Situation Is Being Addressed by This Project?

The situation is either a problem that needs a solution or an untapped business opportunity. If it is a problem, the solution may be clearly defined and the delivery of that solution should be rather straightforward. If the solution is not completely known, then the project-management approach must accommodate the learning and discovery of that solution. Obviously, these will be higher-risk projects than TPM projects, simply because the deliverables are not clearly defined and may not be discovered despite the best efforts being extended.

A project to take advantage of an untapped business opportunity can be done in several ways, discussed in Chapter 1: Overview of the Adaptive Project Framework.

Keep in mind that your project may be competing for resources with other projects that are addressing the same business situation but from a completely different perspective. For example, your project may be attacking one part of the problem while another project is considering a different part of the problem. It would be good if you knew this, because integrating the two projects into a single program may be cost beneficial. At least you would have more points of view to consider. The importance to senior managers of finding that solution or taking advantage of that untapped business opportunity will also compete with the importance of other project proposals.

2. What Do You Need to Do?

The obvious answer is to solve the problem or take advantage of the untapped business opportunity. That's all well and good; but given the business circumstances under which the project will be undertaken, it may not be possible. Even in those rare cases where the solution is clearly known, you might not have the skilled resources to do the project; and if you do have them, they may not be available when you need them. When the solution is not known or only partially known, you might not be successful in finding that heretofore-unknown solution. In any case, you need to document what needs to be done.

3. What Will You Do?

The answer to this question will be framed in your project goal and objectives statements. Maybe you and others will propose partial solutions to the problem or ways to use the untapped business opportunity. In any case, your goal and objective statements will clearly state your intentions.

4. How Will You Do It?

This answer gives your approach to the project and your detailed plan for meeting the goal and objective statements discussed above.

5. How Will You Know You Did It?

Your solution to the problem or approach to the untapped business opportunity will deliver some business value to the organization. That is your success criterion. It will have been used as the basis for approving your doing the project. That success criterion may be expressed in the form of Increased Revenue or Avoided Costs or Improved Services. IRACIS is the acronym for these three areas of business value. Whatever form that success criterion takes, it will be expressed in quantitative terms so that there is no argument as to whether you achieved the expected business results or not. As part of the post-implementation audit, you will compare the actual business value realized to the estimated business value stated in the project plan that justified doing the project in the first place.

6. How Well Did You Do?

There are really four questions that comprise this question. The first and most important is, how well did your deliverables meet the stated success criteria? The second is, how well did the project team perform? The third is, how well did the project-management approach work for this project? The fourth is, what lessons were learned that can be applied to future projects? The answers are all part of the post-implementation audit.

Project Management Is Organized Common Sense

The answers to the above six questions reduce project management to nothing more than organized common sense. If it weren't organized common sense, then why would you want to do it at all? So a good test of whether or not your project-management approach makes sense lies in your answers to these six questions.

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