Steps to Setting Up a Project*
Don Mize
(C) 2003, Don Mize




Requirements:

1.
2.
3.  Here you list the requirements of your project.  In other words, what will the
completed project have accomplished?  Picture the finished project.  State the
requirements as objectively and concretely as possible.  You want to be able to
use objective criteria to prove that the finished project accomplished the
requirements.

Fact Gathering:

State of the Art

Here is where you do research.  What is being done in this area?  What are the
latest techniques, technologies, methods, and ideas?  Of course, you can
research indefinitely.  The larger and more formal the project, the more research
will enter into great depth and breath.
      
Previous Experience

Write out a brief summary of your previous experience in the area.  Include
things that have worked, problems that emerged.  When you have no experience
in an area, assume that the project will take three times as long and cost three
times as much as seems reasonable.  In fact, you would be wise to multiply your
estimate of costs and time by three to avoid frustration.  Better to bring in a
project ahead of schedule than be constantly behind and in trouble.

Qualified/Key Sources of Opinion

Here is where you consult others.  Your research may have turned up new
information.  Here is where you review your initial requirements for the project
and update as necessary.

In consulting others, expert sources of opinion are those people who are the
leaders in the field.  Key sources of opinion are those key people whose opinion
you must take into account to make the project work, whether or not they are
experts.  By consulting expert/key sources of opinion, you further focus your
project and make adjustments (including winning over or neutralizing those
negative key opinions that can wreck your project).

Basic Approach

Assumptions

We must assume certain things to be true in order to live, act, make decisions,
etc.  However, assumptions in a project can ruin.  Now is the time to make a list
of everything you are assuming to be true.

Limitations

Every project has limitations.  Time and money make almost every list every
time.  Personnel, training, background of your team, and other factors also
impose limitations.
      
Unknowns

Make a list of the unknowns.  Will the money really be available and on time?  
Will people be dependable?  Will the help promised really be available at the
time you need it?  The more unknowns, the more likely failure.

Basic Plan

Things to Do in Sequence

1.  Step 1.  Write down the first thing you need to accomplish.

Requirements

Write out in one, two, three order the requirements for the completion of this
step.  In other words, if this step is completed, list in one, two, three order what
will have happened.  Be objective.  Each step may have several requirements.

Criteria

Take Requirement #1.  What are the criteria for success?  How do you know
the requirement has been completed?  A report, a shipment in the warehouse, a
written confirmation may all give you objective evidence that the requirement
has indeed been met.  Each requirement has at least one criterion and often
several criteria.

Deadline Dates

After you finish all your steps, go back and pencil in deadline dates.  Some
deadline dates may be added by a criterion, others by a requirement.  You will
ultimately transfer the deadline dates to a deadline calendar, the key to managing
the project.  You will not have to look at the written up project again; you will
manage the project from the deadline dates on your calendar.

Repeat, steps 2, 3, 4, etc.  Repeat the above process.

Things to Do in Parallel

In the real world, you cannot stop doing everything else in order to work on one
project.  After you complete your steps in sequence above, along with
requirements, criteria, and deadline dates, make a list of the things you must
keep doing along with (in parallel with) the sequence steps.  For example,
continue to attend meetings, do regular assignments, work on other projects.  By
writing these out, you will get a better grasp on where you are.

Set up one project at a time.  The process of thinking through the project, doing
the research, consulting with others, and writing up each step requires focus.  
After you set up the project and kick it off, then you monitor the deadline dates,
making adjustments when deadlines are not reached or criteria are not met.  
However, you can manage several projects at once because you simply are
reading deadline dates and taking needed actions.  Set up and kick off one;
manage several.

1.  Step one (PARALLEL).  (Example: write my monthly report)  

2. Steps 2, 3, 4, repeat.

Cleaning up activities

When a project is over, thank people, write reports, file materials, and take all
the necessary actions to put the finishing, professional touch on your project.  
Neglect the finishing up and you will have trouble on future projects.  How
often have you seen people go away feeling that they were not appreciated for
the effort they brought to the project?  Give credit, recognition, thank you
letters, and make sure that your team feels valued.  If you delay writing the
report or fail to take other steps, you may look incompetent or lazy rather than
gain the credit you deserve for your hard work.  List everything that must be
done to put the final, professional touch on your project.
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*The basic outline is substantially one I first read in How To Get More Done in
Less Time
by Joseph P. Cooper, now out of print.  The comments are mine.
-Don Mize
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