So, what are we delivering?

I was stumped when I had a group of 7 people – all from the same team, asked the above question.

The request to work with this group came from their manager. He told me that the team had a project to work on and needed to develop their project management skills.

What does this project look like?

During the morning of day 1 of this 2 day course we covered setting up the project and defining the project in more detail. It was at this point that the group were unclear as to what was going to be delivered. One person thought a report was needed, another person thought a training programme, another person thought it was a recommendation based around some research.

It was clear that they were unclear!

Project Sponsor is called upon to brief the team

The solution; the project manager called the project sponsor and he came along and discussed the project and the group with the group. They were now clear that they had to deliver a training programme!

The group identified two aspects as key learning points:

  1. the value of the briefing – the line manager admitted he had been too busy to brief the team effectively. This resulted in him having to take time out to do it more effectively
  2. the value of the project initiation document (PID)

The group came to the conclusion that they were unclear as to what was expected of them when we spoke about the use of the PID. Interestingly, this happened about the time a client had the results of a survey on project management training course we ran for them. The survey found that the greatest value to those who attended the course was using the PID! Great feedback.

So, are you really clear what you are delivering? If not, engineer a briefing/discussion with your sponsor or manager and use the PID!

Get your free templates, including the PID by going here.

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11 Responses to So, what are we delivering?

  1. Deanne Earle says:

    Hi Ron
    Being clear up front – it seems so simple and obvious but as you’ve shown it’s so often left in the lap of the gods. If the line manager was too busy to brief the team properly what has he committed to changing so he makes time in the future? He wouldn’t be happy to find things going off track later so he must show responsibility and set the scene up front.

    In my 5 Steps to Leadership Success, Step 1 is Get Clear and I was heartened to see the group recognised they weren’t and asked the person who could tell them.

    Good stuff. Deanne

    Twitter: @UnlikeBefore

  2. admin says:

    Hi Deanne, thanks for the comment. One aspect that I have seen too often is a very rushed briefing, or no briefing at all from the senior manager/sponsor. On a couple of occasions when I have run training sessions for project sponsor I have included a briefing exercise. A revelation for them as they see they do not do it very well.

    Thanks for the comment.


  3. Ron,
    So far (past 30 years) asking and answering the question “what capabilities do we need (want) to posses after this project is done?” sets the conversation off on the right foot.

    Without this being answered the project has no mission, and therefore there are no homes for the requirements. No way to answer “why” do we need this.

    This Capabilities Based Planned was started by the Canadian Defense folks, and then adopted by US, and the UK. Rand corporation has the seminal papers, which you can find on their site under Capabilities Based Planning.

    May times people confuse requirements with answering “why” they are not and the result is what you experienced.

    Delivering the training program is a requirement, but why. What capability will the firm posses after training?

  4. admin says:

    Glen no problem with what you say however….by their own admission, they were a really immature team in project management terms. They were not even close to identifying what ‘done’ looked like. The capabilities/skills post training issue (a real one by the way), was secondary to them understanding what they were supposed to be doing.

    Once they (and I) understood what needed to be done, we looked at skills and the numbers who needed these skills and this was built into the overall plan for the project.

    Good points as ever Glen


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  6. Jeff Clark says:

    Ron, Such basic sound advice. It’s hard to believe that it is so often missed. In addition to the direct benefit of everyone knowing what they are doing and why, that often leads to great camaraderie among the team that is hard to create after missteps that occur with out the shared vision.

  7. admin says:

    Thanks Jeff…I like the practical approach!!

    One thing I noticed when this group left after the 2 day training course was the proud way they walked…they felt confident, they were confident (much more than when they came into the room) and you are tight to point out camaraderie – often not thought about.



  8. Ron,

    I know the problem seems “common.” There is a trick we use.

    When this project is complete, what are the three (3) things that you’ll be able to do that you can’t do now?

    If they can’t come up with 3, then how about just 2. If not 2, then OK, how about just 1.

    If they can’t articulate 1 thing they will be capable of doing that they can’t do now – cancel the project, send everyone home.

    I would conjecture, that without a clear and concise set of statements like those, the project has no “purpose” to pull it together.

    Here are some samples

    – We need the capability to pre‒process insurance claims at $0.07 per transaction rather than the current $0.11 per transaction.

    – We need the capability to remove 1½ hours out of the retail ordering process once the merger is complete.

    – We need the capability to change the Wide Field Camera and the internal nickel hydride batteries, while doing no harm to the telescope.

    – We need the capability to fly 4 astronauts to the international space station, dock, stay 6 months, and return safely.

    – We need the capability to control the Hell Fire Missile with a new touch panel while maintaining existing navigation and guidance capabilities in the helicopter.

    – We need the capability to integrate two customer facing inventory control systems within 2 months of our merger.

  9. admin says:

    Glen no problem here…capability is where I started as a trainer ‘a few years ago…’Too often the statements you mention are missing and i spend a lot of time asking questions that give the answers you mention.

    Thanks again


  10. Ron,
    It is breathtaking how many of our IT clients don’t do what is mandated in the defense and space domain – a “Concept of Operations” document is part of the contract.

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