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How Cluttered Is Your Project?

ClutterTaking a cue from my blog buddy, Steve Farber, we're on a mission to de-clutter the Johnson household this summer.  My younger daughter is transitioning quickly from "toddler" phase to "little girl" phase, and we're done with any new inputs into the procreation system, so it's time to get rid of all of the infant and toddler toys, trinkets, clothes, etc. we don't need.  We've also figured out that, after 13 years of marriage, my wife and I have collected our fair share of junk over the years.  I've been making trip after trip to Good Will and Salvation Army, and numerous items have just wound up being tossed altogether.  It's a very liberating feeling.

Now... how about your project?  How much junk and clutter are bogging down your most important initiatives?  What do you need to do to get rid of some of it?  How do you decide which elements of your scope need to go and which ones need to stay?  Pretty difficult, eh?

Not really.

The first question you need to ask yourself is "Why?"  Do you have a good solid problem or opportunity statement?  Can you fill in the blank in 10 words or less:  "We are committed to completing this project because ___________________."  If you cannot answer that simple question, then back up and force yourself to answer it.  Challenge yourself.  Let your staff and stakeholders challenge you.  If you find you can't answer that question, then maybe your problem is beyond decluttering.  It may be a case of throwing out everything.  The entire project may be clutter.  If your answer has the words "we need" or "we have a lack of" then you need to go back and keep trying; you haven't defined a problem as much as you've already defined the solution.

Now, let's say you've been able to answer that question and answer it well.  You are undertaking this project because....  You know the answer.  You're confident of the answer.  You can defend it to your stockholders, your customers, your suppliers, your employees, the media, your spouse, and your highly inquisitive two-year-old.  The rest should be easy.  Look at all of the tasks and activities that you are undertaking as part of the scope of this project.  Do they contribute directly to the problem or opportunity you've defined?  No?  Then into the project dumpster they go.

That might sound harsh.  You may have already invested time and energy into completing them.  Your people may have developed an emotionally vested interest in completing them.  Nevertheless, they are bogging down your project and keeping you from accomplishing your critical initiative.  Do you want to get a few things done well and quickly, or do you want to be dilluted with a lot of things that may or may not be done?

Recently, I worked with one of my clients and was mentoring a project manager and project sponsor on a content management system.  The project manager had both the content as well as the platform as part of his scope.  The sponsor challenged him about this, asking whether they needed to be split apart into two separate projects.  The project manager was able to rationally and logically lay out why both components were critical to his project and why both should stay in scope.  It was a very refreshing discussion to hear because it was honest, real, objective, and professional.  There was no "wailing and gnashing of teeth."  It was a model for the kind of raw communication that needs to occur on more projects.

Are you ready to de-clutter your project?

Carpe Factum!


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