By PH Lohnes, PMP
While many project managers (PM) know that a project has deliverables, many do not understand their importance and central preeminence. Deliverables are the only reason for a project to be chartered or brought into existence. Without deliverables, there is no project – it is that simple.
Therefore, since project deliverables are the reason for projects in the first place, how is it that some project teams do not know what are the deliverables of the project to which they are assigned? The PM is the lead on each project, and he/she must demand that every team member know definitely what the deliverables are that will direct their time and effort on the project. The first action taken when a project is in trouble, and a project whisperer is called in, should be to discover and understand the project’s deliverables. In many cases, the team members and even the PM cannot articulate the deliverables and their “fit-for-use” performance metrics.
While this may sound somewhat odd, many of us at the Post-Gazette have experienced this precise condition when being called in to support a troubled or soon-to-be troubled project. So getting back to the point of the article, what is a deliverables-centered PM? And what are these “fit-for-use” metrics or performance measurements so often bespoken of at the Post-Gazette?
The first question needs to give way to the second since understanding what “fit-for-use” means is just as important as knowing what your deliverables are for each project. So, “fit-for-use” is the condition or status of the project deliverables whereupon the customer, client, or business sponsor is willing to sign off on the completion of the project’s activities as having produced the deliverables of value to their (the customer, client, or sponsor) business purposes. In other words, “fit-for-use” deliverables are outcomes that can be immediately and purposefully put to valuable utilization in the satisfaction of the project’s business case.
What this means in clear and concise words is that “fit-for-use” deliverables are:
- Defined by the customer, client, or business sponsor,
- The purpose for which the project is instantiated, and
- The business baseline against which the project is compared and measured for success.
Therefore, if you have not already figured it out, the definition of “fit-for-use” deliverables is the specification of quality to which the project outcomes must adhere! “Fit-for-use” is the precise definition of project deliverable quality – nothing more, and nothing less.
While this flies in the face of all the Six Sigma, Lean, and other types of very complex quality definitions and machinations, for a project, this definition of quality is all there needs to be. The customer who pays for the project’s budget defines what they are expecting, at what status of completion, and the value or “fit-for-use” condition which will meet their needs. This should make perfect sense in that if the project is on-time, and on-budget, but fails to produce “fit-for-use” deliverables, it is a failed project while going over-budget, or behind schedule is problematic, but producing “fit-for-use” deliverables could, I say could, render the project a success in the eyes of the only person that matters – the customer.
So what does it mean to be a Deliverables-Centered PM? This question should begin to make sense now that the concept of “fit-for-use” deliverables has been conquered. A Deliverables-Centered PM is one that ensures every action, activity or task is one that moves the project closer to the production of the defined “fit-for-use” deliverables as specified by the customer.
This produces a very stark and rigid code, but one that can mean the difference between just managing an unrelated stream of activities and tasks day after day, and truly understanding the purpose for each action that you take as a PM is for the sole purpose of increasing the probability towards producing deliverables accepted to the customer.
To be specific, every artifact or action from the WBS work packages, to the plans, to the tasks, activities, meetings, reports, audits, gateway reviews, schedules, executions, monitoring, and remediation is undertaken purposefully towards the production of “fit-for-use” deliverables. Each planning item has to therefore be tied back to a specifically identified project deliverable: each WBS work package, each risk, issue, each requirement, each task, each control action, everything and this means EVERYTHING must be tied back to a specific deliverable for the entire life cycle of the project.
Deliverable-Centered Project Management (DCPM) is not just a nice sounding idea or concept, it is a powerful project management philosophy or mindset as we call it at the Post-Gazette and MCLMG. We created this concept when many of our potential clients were floundering in a sea of poor project successes floating on the raft of over-detailed MS Project schedules without even having the map of a sound WBS. This sounds like a cliché, but it is so true for so many project executing firms and government agencies. The current liturgy of the project management discipline has become so complex, so convoluted, so over-governed, and weighed down with increasing regulations and processes, that the simple truth of project management has gotten lost, which is:
The sole purpose of any project, and that means any project regardless of size or complexity, is the production of “fit-for-use” deliverables within the time, cost, quality, and risk constraints of the instantiated project.
Anything beyond the production of such outcomes is truly off-point or “out-of-scope” as it is called in the project management world. For example, while the use of earned value management (EVM) concepts has all the right intentions, if it detracts from the production of “fit-for-use” deliverables then its use is counterproductive to the success of the project. Nothing is as sacred in project management as the production of the project’s deliverables. Nothing!
While this article may appear at first to be a tirade against the current project management status quo, nothing could be closer to the truth. It is! The rank and file project managers need to take back their profession and discipline, reduce the complexity imposed by self-aggrandizing so-called standards bodies both in the US and European Union, and return to the basics of sound project management whereby the deliverables are the only important focus and measurement yardstick for project success.
Just because an organization produces a series of books called standards, or produces a program of minimum knowledge certification, it cannot be granted the sole purveyor of a discipline’s body of knowledge. There is no such thing as “best practices,” only “your practices” that should be based on experienced successful production of “fit-for-use” deliverables.
Moving back to the basics of simple project management will reduce your stress, increase your success rates, and make life more enjoyable as a project manager. Come back in May and June when we at the Project Post-Gazette really stir up the pot with discussions on why the project management discipline is in need of life support and resuscitation.