We started to paint our house…three years ago. And, we are not finished yet (although what is done looks great!)
This is what can happen when you begin a project without clearly defined and approved project charter, start and end dates, a well structured WBS, tasks and milestones, identified resources, a communications plan, and adequate project funding. Too many times someone in an organization will come up with an idea, call a meeting and say “Let’s do this” without providing any significant details on what they want.
It is key to identify all of these items when beginning a project. Everyone may have a different perspective on what they think it the most important. To me, none is more important than the charter. This document allows you to identify the what, when, where, how, who; to validate the project request. I have encountered many projects where the charter was not completed up front. Of course, in the course of the project, it had issues and there was no defining structure that we could use to address those issues. This document outlines the communication channels within the project. Without those lines of communication outlined, it can open a can of worms when someone needs an answer, a decision.
Now, when painting our house, I only had one other person on my project team — my husband. It was easy for me to speak with him when an issue arose. When you are on a large team or one that is not co-located, it is more difficult to get in touch with people. Scheduling conflicts, meetings training sessions, travel, time zones, down email or phone systems, etc. all contribute to the difficulty of communicating. Or, there is miscommunication in an email or voicemail.
We need to take the time after that initial meeting (or even an email) to stop and examine what the project is and how we are going to communicate with each other. Without that, you too can have a house with only three sides painted!