Before you can apply project management principles to a project, someone needs to define what it is you are being asked to manage. In project speak, this is defining the project’s scope.
Defining a project is the most important step in the life of a project. It’s also the step where many projects are set up for failure, simply due to a lack of detail or a failure to provide a clear description of the desired outcomes.
In large organisations, a project generally doesn’t get onto the drawing board until the person proposing it has clearly defined what the project is about, and identified the desired outcomes the project must deliver within defined cost and time constraints. This information is detailed in a document with a name like concept brief, project submission or business specifications. These documents can run into hundreds of pages.
An everyday project needs a similar, if shorter, document. You could use a project on a page document or a simple paragraph detailing the task. Whatever you do, don’t take on management of a project without a documented project definition, even if you have to write it yourself, and that includes a project you’re doing for yourself.
When defining a project, you need to go beyond a vague definition of what you have in mind. Spell out as much detail as you can about what you’re setting out to achieve, and make sure you list any constraining factors, like time and money.
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