Formulate the obvious

Talking about project planning and project management it might sound obvious to state that it is quite useful to write down everything what gets decided. In fact many things seem to be obvious for those who are involved with the project. Usually the longer the time used to prepare a project, the more things get obvious.

When the first meetings to determine goals of an upcoming project take place, the discussions are  very controversial.  As a result, the protocols of such meetings are quite useless. But the more the expected results are discussed and outlined, the more things get obvious for everyone involved. As a result, the protocols are quite useless. Not again!

So the challenge seems to be to write down what everyone thinks is so obvious that it does no further discussion. But this is really hard work. Usually in every project there is a leading party. This may either be the customer for other-directed projects or higher ranking management for self-directed projects. The leading party in a project is the entity in the meetings whose opinion counts the most. And it is usually this same party which thinks everything is obvious and everyone in the room just likes to have a cup of coffee in a meeting.

The real challenge is now to find someone, who is willing to collect all those obvious informations and put it in a readable way which actually makes sense. This is actually a threefold challenge:

  1. Usually the information must be collected by filtering the important parts from everything what is said
  2. This has to be supplemented by all the information what has not been said but seemed obvious to the leading party
  3. The result has to be taken seriously by everyone involved in the project

Part one is usually hard enough as one soon finds out that everything said in a meeting usually does not make any sense at all when put together. So, this information has to be organized and “straightened”. But furthermore it is necessary to add all those details which are not spoken out. Actually not all of the information. It should be sufficient to identify what the leading party thinks is obvious and unnecessary to mention. This requires a very good knowledge about the project – which aspects of it are important but not discussed so far – and the leading party. The last point is the reason why usually the early stages of project planning lack of good documentation: No one really cares.

But it is of great importance that the documentation of the general project goals gets approved by everyone involved. If there remain white spots or even points of disagreement the whole project is most likely to be doomed.

Please note, that I’m talking about the very early stages of a project here. When I write about formulating the goals of a project, I’m not writing neither about the requirements specification nor the technical specification. Far before those very formal documents it is usually beneficial for a project to put the global requirements into terms. Especially when these are neither very specific nor very detailed yet!

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