Over the past week many of the conversations have been with accidental project managers who are struggling with projects. Mainly as a result of them accepting projects that are focused on achieving organisational goals. In most cases doomed for failure as there are either far to many objectives or far to few that are badly defined.

Without getting the the original project/projects defined in the beginning the accidental/new PM has set themself up for failure even if they run the rest of the project with text book efficiency. At this point the conversation I would then focus on the difference between Goals and Objectives and how to begin the process of working with the stakeholders and redefining them. If we accepts the basic definition that:

  • A Goal is a high level aim that is possibly more strategic and in some cases more aspirational than achievable.
  • An Objective has a tangible outcome that can be defined with certainty

Pulling the objectives out from the goals

The PM in most cases when confronted with Goals needs to spend time with the stakeholders positioning the goals as strategic outcomes, it must be remembered that a goal cannot in most cases be achieved and is more assertional such as “we must improve customer services”. This very quickly needs to be defined in to objectives which will allow the PM to map the project/projects to outcomes that can be clearly accepted as complete by the organisation without any ambeguity.

The project manager needs to make sure that they have a good understanding of the organisation and time to understand what the goal really means to the stakeholders, the majority of the PM time and skills are spent on communication and business analysis. This normally takes the form of conversations with variations of the questions below and negotiation on defining exact requirements.

  • What methods would our customers prefer to contact us with?
  • If the Goal has been achieved what would that mean for ……? If we could monitor this what would the matrix be like?
  • Do we currently use matrices to measure our interactions with customers? If not what can we measure?
  • If we agree to adopt X with our customers what Training, Technology, Governance need to be put into place?

Creating a Programme

Once there is agreement on the definable objective the PM can then begin to create projects that can achieve the objectives, the key to this is that there will be several projects which have very definable and achievable outcomes. This begins to create the Programme that will move the company towards the goal, these can be grouped and presented as a working answer to the original project “we must improve customer services” quickly becomes:

  • Reduce customer call waiting time to less that 30 seconds
  • Resolve 90% of enquires in first contact
  • Install email management system
  • Create online knowledge base
  • Create FAQs for all common questions

This is presented as a Programme that will move towards achieving the goals of the organisation, with the added benefit that the organisation and PM can clearly see the end results and more importantly the PM can show success and create a culture of success and clarity within the organisation. It is important that new project manager (whether accidental or not) are given the support to define the projects correctly and manage projects which have a chance of success.

Wining small battles(projects) mean you are more likely to win the large battles (Programmes).