A Project Needs a Vision

When I teach project management, I ask the participants to create a project charter (See my templates page for one I use to start). I recently encountered a battered project manager who does not have a project charter for a project with 6 or 7 sub-projects.

This PM is smart, but has never managed a project with multiple sub-projects before. (I would call this project a program.) All sub-projects are located in one large building (which is helpful). All are using the same language, configuration management system, and the same defect-tracking system. But the sub-projects are not all connected in the configuration management system. And, there is no overall schedule of deliverables, to connect and integrate the sub-projects together. And, there’s a separate integration team who will integrate the sub-projects together. And, a couple of the sub-project teams think it’s fine to change the agree-upon interfaces. Yes, it’s a mess.

Here’s what I suggested this PM do:

  • Create a vision statement, so each sub-project team understands how their piece fits into the overall product deliverable.
  • Create a schedule of deliverables. It doesn’t matter what lifecycle each sub-project is using–it matters that each sub-project deliver completed code into a common code base at the defined milestones.
  • Start integrating now. Move all sub-projects to the same configuration management system. If necessary, give them each a branch and slowly integrate their pieces to the main.
  • I suggested the PM bring the sub-project technical leads together on a weekly basis to discuss necessary changes to the interface, to make those changes more transparent.

Even if the PM had started with a vision of the product as a deliverable, it’s not clear the sub-project teams would be aligned. But there’s nothing to bring this program together. I don’t know if my suggestions for the project are reasonable, but without more information, they seem reasonable to me. 🙂

People are smart. People want to do a good job. And when sub-project teams move in different directions, it’s because they think that’s the best way to accomplish that team’s work. Without a project (or program) vision, people have no way to make decisions. A vision is the first decision a project manager makes. It’s certainly not the last.

5 Replies to “A Project Needs a Vision”

  1. Kevin Brady http:www.claretyconsulting.com
    I believe a vision statement is important and makes sure as part of any communication plan that everyone know what they they have to deliver as a team /sub-teams. However, in terms of delivering a successful project nothing makes more of a difference than :-
    – Sponsorship – KEY
    – Bottom-up project planning
    – Regular project plan updates and where necessary wrokpackage assessments.
    – Risk /Issue managment
    – Technically talented and motivated staff
    Nothing in my view makes more of a difference than this little lot.
    need to

  2. I have been writing Vision Statements for years and in my experience their value is not limitted to the large, multi-sub-projects scope. Even for a small size project writing upfront a short (10 pages max) document or, event better, a PPT outlining the major objectives you are going to achieve would be a tremendous contribution to improving communication and team jealing.

  3. Dmitry, these are vision statements, a way to help people see where they are going, not a mission statement that a manager might use to define what his/her group wil do/not do. I can’t give you vision statements from my clients’ projects, but here’s what I have in the current draft of the PM book I’m writing:
    Put Lucinda’s Lunch on the web. Make it possible and easy for her customers to order their breakfast and lunch (catering and solo, pickup and delivery). Lucinda will expand her business and we will get another happy client.
    Hope this helps.

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