So, you are about to start a project…..?

The project started with a real bang. It was like watching the rush hour at a major London railway station. There was a massive amount of activity, people asking for data (sometime twice of the same person), people in the team doing the same work, lots of meetings and lots of ‘activity.’ To the outsider it looked as though this was a project going far. Yes, going far, but in which direction and to what end?

Does it sound extreme? Not according to the comments made to me by project managers.

One of the benefits of having an agreed project management approach is that it should force those involved to slow down the rate of activity at the start of the project. I say this as often there is a mobilisation to deliver without considering the basics:

  • Whether you have a real project Is this really a project? Let’s develop a business case and obtain approval before moving onto the next stage
  • Let’s establish clear roles at the start of the project. Who is the project sponsor, manager and who is in the team. Is a project board needed and who sits on it? This will make life much easier or all involved.
  • Understanding  the risks involved in the project. Asking and answering the question: are they worth managing?
  • What are the benefits in delivering this project? These need to be clearly stated and be understandable to anyone who reads to everyone involved
  • What options are there for dealing with this problem?
  • What are you trying to achieve?

Of course there are many more these are some of the questions you need to answer when starting off a project.

WHY are we doing this project and WHAT are we doing?

I usually suggest a start-up workshop (or series) to ensure the project has a solid base. I am often asked what should be included within the meeting and I usually talk about the following:

  1. Having an agenda which will enable you to stay focussed. It is so easy to go out of ‘scope’ in your workshop. and while it easy to say this it is often hard to stay on track. However, it is really needed. The agenda is the guide and whoever sits in the chair needs to use it to control the meeting
  2. Inviting key people – focus on possible team members, project manager and sponsor and some stakeholders. You may need to weigh up the benefits of including them against the impact this may have. I prefer to invite them ensuring they are briefed about start up workshops and their purpose
  3. Establishing what you are trying to achieve at the workshop? With one of our clients it was to developing the business case (WHY are we doing this project?) With another client, we focussed on developing the objectives and scope (WHAT are we delivering). Without these the project has no firm foundation and the picture below, shows what happens when you do not have a firm foundation.

    Does your project have a firm foundation?

  4. Ensuring the context for the project is clear to everyone, especially in a change management project. Project managers and team members have told me they they did not buy into the project because they could not understand the context
  5. Clarifying roles at the outset of the project. This can be done at the WHY or the WHAT stages. Whenever you do it, document the results and use that to review roles are being adhered to further into the project
  6. Fully developing the team. The minute you have a new team you have a new challenge and you need to think about the best way to develop them.

Projects start up needs control…..

So lets start projects in a more controlled way. The start-up workshop will help enable the project to have a firmer base. The actual content is up to you however, try one (or maybe more) and do let me know the impact.


Picture and details are courtesy of and can be found at

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