All projects originate from somewhere: a need, a want, a directive, a problem, a catastrophic failure that needs correcting, and so on. Often, when problems arise in an organisation, they are quickly attacked by well-meaning individuals who want to solve the issue quickly. Whilst that may work for small issues, when the need or problem or issue is sizeable, a well-researched, carefully designed approach and solution is needed. Enter “the project”.
Getting the project developed and off the ground can be achieved through a basic four-step approach.
- Fully understand the issue or need. Problems are generally complex, consisting of many aspects that require analysis and insight. There is frequently more to a problem than what we see at the first look. So much so, that it is important to invest a significant amount of time to fully understand all aspects of the problem. Very often, what appears to be the problem is actually masking a larger, more fundamental issue. Uncovering that fundamental issue is referred to as “identifying the true need”.
- Develop the right solution. The solutions identified in the initial, knee-jerk response, though they might solve the problem, may not be the most effective in the long run. For most problems, there are multiple solutions and various approaches to carrying them out. The key to effective project management is to determine the best solution for the organisation. This not only requires careful thought, but also the development of criteria against which we can evaluate which solution is “best”.
- Fully develop the solution and approach. When a solution is identified, it’s typically summarised in one or two brief statements – “install an additional production line” for example. This statement must then be converted into a plan. To do this, the process begins with a full description of the solution, including the methods for achieving it, and ends with the development of a credible, detailed project plan that the team can use as a map for execution.
- Initiate a formal launch. Project launch activities may include preparing a business case, making formal presentations to management, creating and approving a project charter, and securing funding to proceed. They should also include team-oriented activities, such as conducting a kick-off meeting and establishing mutual expectations between you and your project team.
How these steps are carried out will depend on the size of the project, the industry, the available budget and timeline, and other inputs that may be mandated by the organisation and the executive management team. But this general four-step approach, applied flexibly based on these variables, should get most projects headed in the right direction.