Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What should you look for in a project?

Many projects fail and many projects are going to be dropped.  Many of us will be handed projects we have to manage, good bad or otherwise, others will scramble to find work, so this question maybe pointless.  But it's not a pointless question, I think it's the most important question to ask.

Three elements determine a projects success more than anything else:
  1. What is the project going to do?
  2. Why is the project doing it?
  3. How will the project be done?
PMI and Agile and other approaches dwell on the "how" element of project management.  This area is important, the devil is in the details.  However, I believe the other two elements: 'what is being done' and 'why is it being done', will tell you more about a projects chances of success than 'how it's being done'.

What are we trying to do?  
Is the project going to increase sales?  Is it going to improve productivity?  Is there enough real value in the outcome to justify the costs and keep people focused when the environment changes.

If you're wondering about this, think of it this way: If our company's stock price (or sales) fall by over 50%, is what we're doing compelling enough to continue the project?  If the answer is anything other than an unambigious "yes", think long and hard about whether you really want to devote large parts of your life and energy to a fantasy.  

My old boss drilled into my head that the difference between hallucination and vision is whether its worth the effort. [Editor: Funny, your dates give that reason for dumping you.]

Why is the project being done?  
If it's some managers pet project, even if that manager is the CEO, the chances of it's successful completion drop dramatically.  If the devil is in the details, god is in the "why".  If the "why" is compelling enough, almost any project will find a way to succeed.

There are two really compelling whys:
  1. The project will increase sales.
  2. The project will decrease costs.
If one or both of those goals are intuitive, obvious and achievable, the projects chances of success are excellent.

I'm all infavor of understanding the "how", but if you can pick which projects you work on, think about the "what" and they "why" too.

1 comment:

Craig Brown said...

And there is also - what am I going to get out of it?

What will I learn, or earn? Who will I work with? What relationships will I establish? etc...