Staying On Track

Having a clear documented goal is the way to go. Many projects change in direction or deviate some point in the process. This is due to many reasons such as finding a better solution or a better way to accomplish the project’s goal. If that’s the case, then that’s a plus given to the team. However, if the direction changes or deviation is caused by an unclear or blurry goal, then the project will yield different results.

A clear documented goal and the way to accomplish it could be reached by creating four documents. The four documents are as following:

  • Charter: The document outlining the project’s Scope & Objectives, Impact, Deliverables, Interfaces and Risk & Constraint Management.
  • Project Plan: The steps that should be taken to accomplish the project’s desired outcomes. It could be shown at a higher level breakdown of major activities and tasks and broken down further to show individual tasks assigned to project members.
  • Team Roster: The document containing information about the project team and external people involved in the project. It provides names, roles, email addresses, organizations they belong to, and their Full Time Equivalence (FTE) in the project.
  • Reporting Template: Where progress of the project gets reported in periodic basis. In this document the project team could report their % completion on the project, % completion on each milestone, issues and risks being faced, a mitigation plan, current focus area and changes required on the project team.

By having such documents “under the same name of different names”, the project team could always go back and recheck the progress and direction to ensure movement in right direction. The Charter is the document to be checked at the completion of the project. It has what needs to be done and accomplished. The project plan is the path towards completion and accomplishment. The team roster is who is on board and what contribution and role is played by each. Finally, the reporting template is the health check and prescription to any issue.

Without having this set of documentation, the project might deviate from the original path and give different results because there was no written and clear direction and requirements guiding the team. From personnel experience, people act differently and commit more to documented process and requirements. Many projects have failed in organizations due to blurry paths and not having the book to go back to and validate what they are doing. Moreover, ending up with the wrong results might cause a restart from point zero and having to spend more time, money and energy to accomplish what was supposed to be accomplished.

The key element is to stay focused, and to do so, a project needs a clear documented goals and way to accomplish them.

16 thoughts on “Staying On Track

  1. I agree with you Nujood. You are tackling a very important aspect in project management many leaders tend to neglect due to time constrain. Documenting goals, objectives, processes, deadlines, and setting guidelines for any project can facilitate planning, tracking, and reporting of the project. I see the way in which project documents are administered by project managers or leaders can either be the driving force behind a project’s success or failure.

    It’s recommended that project managers or leaders develop a number of basic project documents and methodologies in order to maintain high standards in the delivery of projects. Documentations have pragmatic impact on improving the visibility of project’s status to better respond to the changes that occur on day-to-day work.

  2. This post is relevant as it explains in detail how to stay on track and avoid any deviations from the main objectives of a project. I can relate this to some of the project failures experienced, when handling various projects. Your writing made me think that we should always revisit the documents available in every project in order to stick to the vision and mission. Another thing to consider is to manage time, scope and human resource.

  3. I totally agree with you but to have a clear you have to describe your goals to team and inform them step by step according the project. I also agree for four documents and that what is happened in our current project we have a good planning, clear goals, feedback for each step and we have the all information about the group members and the two optometrist in Ehsan. All that lead our project to success and reach our targeted goals.

  4. I don’t disagree with you; Clear documented goals are the right way. Deviation from the track will always occur during projects life and successful managers try to mitigate and realign, these four documents help manager in modeling and visualizing projects and give them better observation. But is it enough to accomplish goals? I believe documentation will give an advantage in the technical dimension of the project, but to stay focused and motivated you need more emphasizing on the sociocultural dimensions. In my opinion these tools support projects but in order to be successful more emphasis must be on the people.

  5. Absolutely! Document management is vital for a firms sustainability and efficiency. Managing documents in secure, structured and easily accessible systems are essential for project management, and it can be highly reliable for managers and their projects success as it will help them in being on track of their work with each step they take into managing projects.

  6. This post is relevant because it serves as a reminder that clear and concise documentation starts a project off on the right path. The documentation may keep projects on track, but is it enough to accomplish goals? I found myself wondering this after reading Nayef’s post. I’ve seen some project managers become classified as task masters and hard to work with due to their strict adherence to documentation. These tools surely support the project, but they shouldn’t be the project.

  7. After reading this post and comments, I found myself wondering about two comments from Nayef and Frank regarding Nujood’s perspective on goal documentation leading to successful project completion. I agree that clearly documenting activities surrounding a project is important, however, if a team is not aligned with the goals and objectives then the documentation will not be a project’s saving grace. As far as how to attain the goal, approaches can definitely deviate from the original plan. What’s so wrong/bad with deviation? Those deviations or out the box ideas are the ones that can potentially make your project a wildly successful. I’m a advocate for follow through with a SMART goal, but also defining and re-defining the path to get there. I think you can generate some very cool ideas and processes to make the goal a reality when you take a step away from trying to conform to a box. Sometimes the original path forward presents roadblocks, and it’s the teams responsibility to figure out ways to find new solutions. Good or bad, it will be a very cool learning experience.

  8. I agree with Tiffany. Of course it is important to be very aware when re-defining goals to avoid scope creep and unnecessary expenses, but I work with project managers everyday and something that distinguishes a superb PM from an okay one is openness. A great PM recognizes a good idea and doesn’t dismiss it because it is not apart of the original goals. The PM has to walk a fine line of keeping a schedule/budget while still listening to the team and adapting to incorporate good ideas.

  9. While having clearly documented goals is important, I believe Tiffany and Kathleen have it correct is saying that the goals can’t be completely set in stone. There has to be room for adjustment as things change.

    I think there is also a type/size of project where doing through the process to document concrete goals can become a hindrance to the project as it is something that can be communicated and completed without the formal documentation process. Effectively setting up and completing a project must be weighed with the agility of the organization.

  10. I enjoyed reading this blog post and felt that the Charter, Project Plan, Team Roster, and Reporting Template would be very beneficial to the successful execution of a particular project. This resonating with me as the company I work for has many projects that utilize team members from different functional units on a repetitive basis. Additionally these team members are generally working on 3-4 projects at any given time.

    I felt that the Charter would be an excellent way to receive “buy in” from each individual team member and also ensure that each team member shared the same goals for the project. In my experience, if there is not a shared or known goal, each team member may have a different approach due to the fact that they have a different goal.

    This blog made me wonder if there was a way to further ensure that a project “stayed on track”. The Project Plan does a great job of explaining what the scope is in order to stop scope creep, but I wonder if the Project Plan should also include what the project “will not” do. By stating what the project “will not” do, it further defines scope and makes clear boundaries that the team and reviewers of the project can understand.

  11. Having a documented goal is definitely the way to go! This blog post was very interesting to me because there is more to just writing down a desired end result. It’s crucial to have a charter documenting the projects scope and objectives, impact, deliverables, interfaces, and risk and constraints. Not only documenting your end result, but documenting how exactly you plan on reaching your goal. It may be beneficial to have multiple plans in case one backfires on the group. I know from personal experience, this is something I learned to do after failed projects. I also think the reporting template is a great tool. Not only does it keep you on track toward your goal, but it also helps you stay within your project timeframe. Regardless of PM experience it’s always good to read blog posts like this that may seem like common sense, but in reality a lot of people could learn from it and have at least one take away! Again, great blog post!

  12. I can relate to this post because in the past I have been a part of several projects where we did not take the time to write down and define set goals, responsibilities, and plans at the beginning and as a result the projects tended to be disorganized and get off track quickly. While, being flexible and having the ability to adjust to changing conditions during the life of a project is critical, it is also important to have a sense of direction from the very beginning. In my opinion, having defined goals and a strong plan from the very beginning actually can aid you in making the appropriate adjustments when changes need to be made because you know the general direction in which you need to know and you can keep your target in sight.

  13. I am glad that Nujood spoke to this subject. The one major aspect of this project that concerns me the most is meeting our group’s goals. He is correct in stating that the goals of the group should be clearing stated and updated in writing. Since our group includes seven team members, it may be difficult to stay on the same page with so many opinions and deadlines within in the group. However, Nujood’s idea of having a group-shared document where all team members can contribute their ideas, updates, etc. will help to create common goals. We have started this as a group and it has already proven to be helpful. If it is stated in writing throughout the progression of the project, team members may reference the document if a dispute arises, if a change is necessary, and so on. Having said that, this course is only a matter of weeks. I would hope that we would not deviate too far away from the initial plan. Any changes could cause deadlines to be unmet or donations to be less than expected, etc. If we are to deviate, I would hope that the changes would be minor in order to not create any sort of chaos. Nujood’s idea of having a clearly documented goal will helpful to avoid any bumps in the road.

  14. I find this very interesting and useful as it gives lot of tips on how to stay on track and manage projects efficiently.

    I agree with lot information mentioned above…Projects are daunting, whether it’s a strategic plan, a screenplay, a new business plan or a book. Although you want to complete it, there is always something that will prevent us from attaining the goal. During a large project it is easy to become distracted and procrastinate. My two sense is that we need to approach the work from two perspectives: internal preparation and external preparation. Internal preparation gets us mentally ready. Answering to questions such as- What is the mindset I want to have about the project? How do I create realistic expectations? What’s my biggest fear about the project? What will completing it mean to me? Will help us to stay focused for a long time.
    External preparation will get us physically ready. Questions such as: What resources do I need to start this project? What do I need to move ahead? What environment is most conducive to my productivity? These answers will lay a foundation for starting and maintaining momentum.
    I also religiously go through the 7Ps when managing a project: Plan, Prepare, produce, prioritize, play, persevere and partner.

  15. Boy, this was a great read! I’m going to be my team’s project manager (first time ever, so be gentle!). With a project of this type, particularly with a group of seven, it will be important to support the team with clear and well-defined documentation. I especially like defining the charter as you’ve outlined, as well as providing a reporting template. I think the key of it is developing this documentation in a timely fashion. To Mirna’s point, you don’t want to procrastinate it ad nauseam, as you may find the memories become too blurry, the project too far off-course to recover. At the same time, I don’t think you want to establish firm guidelines too soon, as it can stymie the creative process. I myself interjected once or twice on the initial brainstorm call with the intention of setting a firm path before I realized that it was too soon to do so. For me, everything in its own time, and finalizing the documentation as outlined needs to come at its own pace – no matter how tempting it may be to nail down the details.

  16. Great post! Every successful project must have clearly defined goals and objectives. Each “amendment” to the original objective should be clearly documented and communicated to the team. There is no way a project (especially a large and complex project) could be successful without such documentation. I would even go one step further and dare to say that each Team Meeting should have a clearly laid out agenda, discussion notes, and documented (and assigned) follow ups. When it comes to leading a successful project that you would like to keep on track – there is no such thing as too much organization.

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