Every week management receives a status report telling them the project is on time and within budget and that the product will launch at the end of the first quarter as planned. The project is clearly on a trajectory for success – or is it?
Upon completion, it is found that next quarter, a leading competitor will be coming out with a similar product – only it will be based on newer technology that became available in the last 6 months. While the project team was aware of the new technology, incorporating the technology would have delayed the launch of the project by two months, and increased the cost of the project by 20%. That, they concluded, would have resulted in project failure.
It is not difficult to examples like these happening in all industries, for all types of projects.
Projects are the means through which corporate strategies become a reality. Focusing on “what” we are doing (e.g. developing a new product or service) rather than “why” we are doing it (the business and strategic value) can lead to situations like the one above, in which project metrics focus on the wrong criteria. The resulting project, even if technically a “success”, fails to deliver the intended strategic benefits.
Preventing this from happening starts with aligning, from the start, the following four key project elements:
- Why — align the project with specific business and strategic objectives (project purpose)
- What — align project scope with project purpose to ensure the scope is capable of achieving the project’s business and strategic objectives
- How — align project success metrics so they measure the degree to which business and strategic objectives are achieved (the purpose), not merely on delivery within the stated time and budget
- When — align project priority and timing to maximize strategic and business value, within the context of other projects within the organization
Aligning the why, what, how and when of a project at the start, changes everything. Rather than creating a project culture in which project success is merely defined by whether the project is completed on time and on budget, we create a project culture that recognizes that meaningful project success is achieved only when the project delivers what is needed.
Paul Bergman, PMP
President, World Class Productivity (WCP) Inc.