6 ‘WHAT & HOW’ Questions Every Project MUST Answer
What Are You Doing?? — Answering The Delivery 6
While every change should start first with its WHY and it’s Value, there comes a time when it must answer the 3rd Most Valuable Question, i.e., What Are We Doing? (Valuable Questions 1 & 2 are Why Are We Doing It? and How Will We Prove It?)
It’s Valuable Question 3: “What are we doing?” that covers the WHAT and HOW of the change.
You may be surprised at how many projects simply do not have enough clarity about what they are actually doing. I certainly was at first. What should be a no-brainer is often one of the thorns that ends up crippling projects down the line.
Interestingly, I tend to find an inverse relationship between the amount of money spent on a project and the clarity and usefulness of its scoped inclusions, as I’ve shown in the figure below.
Typical Relationship Between A Project’s Spend and Clarity on What it’s Doing.
While I’ll let you speculate in your own time why this relationship exists, what is more important is that we understand how a failure to properly define and agree early what the project is aiming to do can lead to dramatic damage later in a project’s life. So it’s important that we do answer this Question as early as we can. In all likelihood your organisation has templates, processes and tools for your use here. After all, most organisations are pretty good at figuring out how to deliver the What. Whether this is a project plan, a project initiation document, a scoping document, or something completely different — you likely aren’t starting from scratch here.
So, my advice here is simple: Use what works, but as always, be wary of over-cooking.
No matter which toolset you use to answer this question, you must ensure you are answering what I call the ‘Delivery 6’. The Delivery 6 provide key information about How you plan to go about delivering your WHY.
As this isn’t a project management methodology textbook, I’ll just touch on each of them briefly.
The ‘Delivery 6’
1. What: “What Exactly Are We Doing?”
Not enough projects have true clarity on what they are actually doing. You need to define what you plan to do, what standard it needs to achieve to be deemed ‘good enough’, and who is going to make that quality judgement call.
2. Approach: “How Will We Do It?”
After we define what we are doing, we then need to figure how we will do it. With hundreds of delivery approaches prevalent across the market, you are only really limited here by the context and your imagination. The key thing to keep in mind here is that the approach needs to make sense to an outsider. If your approach makes sense, then you normally won’t have much push-back on whatever you choose here.
3. Cost: “How Much Will It Cost?”
This is probably the number 1 question asked by all change executives. Accordingly you need to know how much you expect to spend to deliver the What of the Change. Estimations are never perfect so put aside money for contingencies and surprises. For most Change projects the vast majority of their spend comes from people and expertise, which is why the fourth question of the Delivery 6 is:
4. Team: “Who Will We Need?”
You need to have a view on who you will need to both do and administer the work. You may not necessarily have a grasp on the individuals you need, but you certainly should be able to figure out the skill-sets you will require.
5. Risk: “What Could Go Wrong?”
When it comes to change projects, it can feel as if nothing ever goes to plan. While that may be an exaggeration — the successful projects are those that look ahead and ask: ‘What will stop us from achieving success?’ then they plan for those events accordingly.
6. Time: “When Will We Do It?”
A favourite amongst organisational executives, having clarity of the when is important for both management and communication purposes. The nature of timelines differ from project to project — so the main element you need to keep in mind here is ‘What dates should my teams and stakeholders be marking on their calendars?’.
The Delivery 6 underpin your ongoing success, providing what you need to support and deliver your WHY and PROOFs.
My personal preference when it comes to answering these questions is to use a ‘project one pager’ that has a summary of these details all on one page. A project plan can later be developed as needed, but by producing the Delivery 6 on a one pager early on in a project’s life you are able to provide much needed clarity on the What. This early clarity allows a true assessment of a project’s viability nice and early.
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This is a sneak peak from Valuable Change: What You Need To Know To Ensure Your Change Pays Off