Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Closing the Individual Objective Clarity Gap

Are you confident that everyone has had all the information required to perform his or her tasks for projects? If any task deliverable or activity has needed to be reworked or massaged in any way, they definitely did not. Clarity of individual objectives is one of the top three contributors to unexpected diversions and delays in projects. Ideal Objective Clarity GoalThis deficiency is often misunderstood, ignored and "assumed" to be under control. As an example of this misplaced assumption - the existence of ISO 9001 should not imply that the clarity of individual objectives is being addressed to the degree necessary.

Most project teams have a solid grasp of the timing expectations and responsible person for each task - the who and when aspects of the project activities. The primary reason for success here is that the information can be easily conveyed and interpretations of intent are rarely necessary. The expectations can be simply transmitted, captured and tracked in a project plan. It's "easy" information.

Where I see limitations in clarity is the what, where and how aspects of each of the tasks. This is the procedural information that does not easily fit into a single line description. Consider that for any project there are many "right" ways to do a specific task, the challenge is aligning everyone to the same "right" way. Failure to align expectations will lead to rework due to missed expectations between the deliverer and receiver of a task output.

The what, where and how objectives are procedural in nature and can't be easily integrated into a project plan. Detailed procedure descriptions, diagrams and flow charts are necessary to properly convey this type of information; this can't be done in a checklist or a project plan. There is another medium necessary to convey this type of information, one that is easily accessible and available to everyone. The chosen method must integrate into the workflow, not stand outside the workflow as a reference. Suitable communication of this information requires the addition of design guides and/or web workflow management systems.

Frequently there is an assumption that project plans, specifications and checklists cover the needs for communication of individual expectations. This is just plain wrong and will leave your project open to needless rework. Where both a predictable and streamlined path to new product revenue is required, it is essential to make sure each team member is clear on exactly what, where and how everyone is contributing to each project task. How far away is your organization from this ideal objective?

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