Have you ever faced a situation where your project sponsor or other stakeholders expect that you start delivering results just after your first contact with the project?
Many people tend to start working in the execution phase when facing a problem instead of dedicating enough time to understand what they need to do. This may result in delivering the wrong solution or a not efficient one.
What should we do at the beginning of a project?
Let’s start dedicating enough time to understand the problem. When I was studying engineering I had a teacher who told me that I should dedicate half of the time he gave me to do a exam to understand the problem. The other half should be enough to describe and calculate the solution.
I followed this strategy not only in his exams but in other exams as well and I never regretted it.
Understanding the problem means not only reading what is said but also what is not said when our client explains his need.
Moreover we should not stop when we find the first potential solution to our problem. That is laziness. There are many tools to find creative solutions to a problem, once we find some of them a good approach is to compare them and identify the best one. And when we have the one we consider the best we should consider it from a different point of view and identify all the possible negative points it has. After that we can consider if it is still the best option for our problem.
Understanding your project
It is the same with projects. Dedicating enough time to the study phase of a project usually pays off.
It is important to identify and meet all stakeholders, to understand their expectations, how the outcome of the project would affect them, their priorities and their level of support and commitment with the project.
The scope of the project should be clearly identified (at least at a higher level). Sometimes we do not know at that stage all what will have to be done but we should know what will not be done in the project. Risks, budget and timing should be discussed as well with the project sponsor and main stakeholders.
And everything should be written down in a document that the team members and other stakeholders can consult at any time during the project.
What do you think? How many time do you tipically spend in this phase of your projects? What is the proportion in comparison with the whole duration of the project?