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The Self Evident Truths of Project Management: Truth # 10 “Success comes from being excellent at ‘what’ not ‘how’.”

The Self Evident Truths of Project Management: Truth # 10 “Success comes from being excellent at ‘what’ not ‘how’.”

Specifying requirements and required changes the key to success

If you make a film, “how” you make it is less important to its success than “what” you make. If you make a bad film with a poor characterisation and plot, however well you make it will not improve the core film. If you improve the film quality, the lighting, the cameras (the ‘how’) but not the plot or characters, then you’ll still have a lousy film (even if exquisitely made!)

Most of the attention on projects for the past 20-30 years has been focused on the “how” — principally project management. Methodologies, books, support systems, training and qualifications on project management abound, but the success rate on projects has not increased. Indeed, they’ve not improved since the AD Little study of 1991.

So, we must be focusing on the wrong dimension.

The “what” has not only been neglected but has been significantly downplayed in recent years. Clearly and comprehensively defining your business requirements has been decried and denounced as unnecessary. And the results don’t improve. Is it only me that sees a connection here?

The primary determinant of success is that you deliver what your business requires — the ‘what’. However well you deliver your project, if you don’t deliver what is required, you’ve failed. Simple.

Rather than sending yet more people to be trained as project managers we need to send people to be trained in project and results delivery — identifying, defining, designing and delivering the “what”.

Yet, when we did our worldwide study on project delivery, the impact — good or bad — of project management on the results was negligible. What made the difference were how well the requirements and required changes were specified. Get that wrong and over 50% of your value was lost.

Funny that. That’s the same statistic of value loss that most organizations experience with their projects. Coincidence or driver?

© Jed Simms, Australia, 2009. Jed@valuedeliverymanagement.com


Further support and useful tools to help you manage your investments, projects and portfolio are available from valuedeliverymanagement.com.

For the previous article in this series visit The Self Evident Truths of Project Management: Truth # 9 - “Value management makes sense of Project Governance”.

For the first article in this series visit The Self Evident Truths of Project Management: Truth #1 - We do projects to realise the Associated benefits.

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