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The Who’s, Why’s, What’s, and How’s of a Project
The basic building blocks of every successful project…
“It always starts with a need. A need for beauty, a need for function, whatever… always a need.” — John Buckman
The Who’s and Why’s of a Project:
Every project solves some kind of problem, desire, want, or need that someone has. In Project Management parlance, we call the someone a project “stakeholder.” Stakeholders can be customers, end-users, sponsors, or upper management. It is important to take the time to identify and understand the stakeholders, as they are the main drivers of the project. They have a need for someone to develop and provide a solution to their problem. We call the problem/solution the “mission” of a project. The first thing we must do as project managers therefore is to define the primary who’s and why’s of the project.
The What’s of a Project:
Every project is about fulfilling the mission by creating something new that didn’t exist before, something unique. This something is known as the project’s “deliverable.” More formally, we call the deliverable the “scope” of the project. The scope of a project can be a product, a service, or a result of some type. Further, there will be some constraints and expectations placed on the deliverable. These constraints fall into the three categories of quality, cost, and schedule. Combined together, the scope, quality requirements, cost, and schedule form what is known as the “baseline” of a project. After the who’s and why’s, the next most important thing a project manager does is to define and document the baseline in detail.
The How’s of a Project:
Every well-run project will have a logical, realistic, and achievable execution plan to create the deliverable (within the prescribed constraints) to solve the mission need and satisfy the stakeholder. This plan includes five parts: a) an “acquisition plan” that describes how the deliverable will be procured and tested; b) a “resource management plan” that describes what people and equipment are needed on your team to perform all the work; c) an “integration” or “implementation plan” that describes how day-to-day work will be performed, checked, and adjusted; d) an “information management plan” that describes how internal communications & documents are managed, and how the stakeholders will be engaged; and e) a “risk management plan” that describes how potential threats to project success will be identified and addressed by you. Understanding the who’s, why’s, and what’s are meaningless without also having a solid approach to the how’s.
Finally, every project will have a plan or scheme to conclude the work in a systematic, graceful, and professional manner. This plan centers on handing over the deliverable to the stakeholders and ensuring everyone is satisfied with the results.
The Bottom Line:
Every project is unique, but the building blocks between projects are largely the same. If you take the time to properly identify and document the project’s who’s (stakeholders), why’s (mission statement), what’s (project baseline), and how’s (project execution and closeout plans), you will have taken the first and most important steps to achieving project success.