Writing Up the Project Definition

In this series of posts, I share what I’m learning as I make my way through Project Management Simplified, a Lynda.com course with management consultant, Chris Croft.

Step 1 of Croft’s The Twelve Steps to Manage a Project Successfully is to agree to the success criteria and major constraints in writing.

For clear communication between the Project Manager (PM) and the client or boss, it’s important to write down the project definition. Depending on the nature of the project, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a signed contract, but at least an email saying this is what we agreed to.

A written project definition has the following benefits:

  • It prevents scope creep during the project
  • At project completion, it is a useful yardstick for measuring the success or failure of the project

Sometimes people want to leave it unwritten so they have some wiggle room. But it can lead to confusion because multiple people will make different assumptions about what was actually agreed to.

The written project definition allows all parties to look at what is proposed and say “yes” or “no,” rather than “I’ll try to get it done.” or “I have reservations about this project, but I’ll put off judging whether this is how we should proceed.”

It also allows future people coming in to the project to have a clear picture of what the project is all about and how it will be accomplished.

Croft encourages everyone to think about the projects we are in the middle of ask if we have everything nailed down in writing. He encourages us to write an email about existing projects to confirm there is shared understanding of where we are and where we are going.

Thinking about the projects you are in the middle of, is there an email you can write now that would help clarify expectations? Write about it in the comments below.

Lynda’s No-Brainer Chapter Quiz Results

Here’s the knowledge I demonstrated in Lynda’s chapter quiz:

  • PMs should not promise their bosses and clients the moon. You won’t be able to do every project cheaply, quickly, and perfectly.
  • Every project will involve quality (deliverables), cost (budget), and time (deadlines).
  • The purpose of a kick-off meeting is to discover what stakeholders are looking for and envisioning.
  • The risks of only having a verbal agreement on the project definition are:
    • Scope creep
    • Disagreement on deliverables
    • New project workers or stakeholders in the future don’t understand the project

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