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Project Management: Defining Objectives

As a Certified Associate in Project Management having worked in a PMO environment, I know the importance of planning and executing projects.

I took an online course with the University of Toronto more than 15 years ago where I learned about the principles of project management. At the time, I had planned to become an entrepreneur with my own small business. That did not happen.

The course was theoretical, but I managed over the years to understand the practical and useful aspect of project management.

The practice of project management is well established. It has a stretched out range in varied industries. Several businesses and organizations in areas such as marketing, finance, product development, consumer services, and government are now applying its central principles.

Project management is a cluster of practices and collaborative skills used for a specific purpose and planned to make sure that a project succeeds with existing resources.

What Is a Project?

A project is an activity that has a distinct starting point and well-defined objectives that help ensure it is completed on time and on budget with existing resources. All projects involve change and are unplanned to different degrees.

The management of a project progresses through three consecutive stages: defining objectives, planning, and executing. Defining the objectives establishes the structure of the project. Planning establishes the means to successfully complete the project in line with the objectives. Execution tests the success of the project compared to the objectives.

The objectives of project management. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

The objectives of project management. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Defining Objectives

A sponsor explains the objectives of the project. For example, the opening of a yoga studio.

The project sponsor is a person or a group who owns the project. In the case of opening a yoga studio, it would be me. As the project sponsor, I do not manage the everyday operations of my project.

The project manager must clarify the objectives by asking me, the project sponsor, what must be done in the limitations of time, cost, and deliverables that I impose.

A deliverable is a good or service produced as a result of a project that is planned to be delivered to a customer. It could be a report, opening a yoga studio, constructing a railway, or it could be a component of an overall project.

Planning

In the planning stage, the project manager must produce a document called the project definition that has:

  1. Objectives explained in terms of time, cost, and quality.
  2. Scope of the project, which is all the work that the project requires.
  3. Operational limitations:

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  • Organizational structure.
  • Key team members.
  • Operational processes for contracting, reporting, and financing.
  • Performance levels.

The project manager must detail the whole project to find how best to achieve it. S/he needs to know the:

  • Tasks to be executed. Tasks are activities that must be done in a defined period of time.
  • Deadlines for delivery and planning of the project and a list of the milestones, activities, and deliverables, with projected start and finish dates.
  • Resources needed such as people, materials, tools, and facilities.
  • Estimated cost of each task.

Execution

The project manager directs the project to complete the defined objectives by monitoring the implementation of the plan, reviewing the progress of the project, and planning and re-planning to get it done.

People Management

The project manager leads the team successfully by describing the role and responsibilities of each team member, advising on the authority and responsibility levels, making sure that realistic expectations are approved for team members, giving team members assistance and back-up, and making realistic decision after consulting with the relevant team members.

S/he motivates his team by involving his/her team members in making decisions, delegating but not micro-managing, setting realistic individual targets for each team member, and recognizing and rewarding contributions.

S/he must negotiate successfully by listening and inquiring to establish the nature of competing demands, involving the team in discussing alternative solutions, presenting the advantages and disadvantages of proposed alternative solutions, presenting why and how a particular course of action might be taken, and keeping a good understanding of the overall project aim.

S/he must establish communications and monitoring systems, manage the flow of information within the team, be transparent in presenting information to the team, project sponsor and all stakeholders, get feedback on all communication, and involve the team in decision making.

The cost, time, and quality triangle. Image by Dirk Wouters from Pixabay.

The cost, time, and quality triangle. Image by Dirk Wouters from Pixabay.

Balancing Time, Cost, and Deliverables

Most projects are limited by time, cost, and quality. Quality is the specifications of deliverables.

In the planning phase, the project manager must identify the time and cost, specify the quality parameters of the deliverables, and determine how each tends to limit the other two.

These three limitations of time, cost, and quality pull the project in different directions as long as the project is on. A change in one constraint will usually mean matching changes to the other two.

The project manager must define the importance of the main limitations when he/she clarifies the objectives and must reassess their importance as the project advances. S/he must ensure that each operational decision made by the key members of the team keeps the three main limitations balanced.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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