I Have An Opportunity, But Can I Take Advantage? You Need A Project Reality Check.
As the idea for a project takes shape, it’s easy to get consumed by anticipation that at last something is being done to solve a problem that’s been causing headaches for weeks or months or even years. We naturally want to jump in to solve the problem.
Wise project managers, however, do an initial project reality check by addressing two key questions. Is the problem worth solving? Does a feasible solution exist? It’s impossible to get definitive answers to those questions at first. But putting in enough effort to make reasonable guesses can help your company avoid wasting time on projects that customers don’t care about or for which there’s currently no workable solution, or there are solutions that will be too costly to implement.
It is also crucial that you carry that questioning mentality throughout the project, pausing periodically for additional reality checks. How often will depend on the nature of your project. Your project team may go through a rapid learning curve where you uncover surprising facts about the project, the nature of the work involved, customer needs, changing market conditions, etc. In such cases, you may need to do a reality check with management every few weeks.
Performing three checks in addition to the questions raised above can help you know when and if a project charter needs to change:
Check when the problem definition is clearer: This reality check should occur as soon as the team has flushed out the challenges, opportunities, costs, and benefits in more detail. Present the data to management to get approval to proceed as originally planned or modify the project goals accordingly.
Check after a specific solution is identified: This check should focus largely on feasibility. Is the solution idea workable? Affordable? Practical within the time frame needed? Use market studies, pilot testing, prototyping, and/or simulations to help answer those questions.
Check before full-scale implementation: By this point, you should have a good handle on the costs of implementation and risks of not acting. Give management an opportunity to review that information and discuss timing and plans to mitigate risks.
“If the results of a well-conceived and executed feasibility study indicate that the project should proceed, you can move confidently into the planning and implementation phases. If the results are discouraging, . . . use the data to redesign the pro- ject and do another feasibility study, and so on, until you’ve identified a concept that works.”
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“Project Management: 24 steps to help you master any project” by Gary R. Heerkens is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Purchase the book on Amazon.