The Most Important Step in Project Management
The most important step in project management is defining the problem.
Time spent ensuring you've addressing the real issue is always time well spent.
Here's a few thoughts to ensure you don't waste the opportunity to define the problem effectively:
Put the people affected by the problem in the room to develop a solution. Don't let hierarchy and org charts get in the way here and only bring in your top folks. The people closest to the problem are always the most capable of understanding it and determining if the proposed solution will do what you hope it will.
Define the solution as preferred future state. Make it as tangible and measurable as possible. As a result of this initiative, what do we hope will change? Who will be different as a result? In what way? What will look like? Feel like? What will be people see, feel and experience because of this effort? How will it make their lives better?
Be prepared to replan. Planning is an iterative process in response to a constantly changing business environment. Don't expect to get it perfect the first time and build in checkpoints to zoom out and reflect on whether the issue you're trying to solve is the most important one still.
If you're like me, you'll find planning a safe harbor against the vulnerability of definitive action. So you can error on the side of over-planning. Keep a ratio of 1:10 planning to action.
But equally dangerous is blindly casting off into a new initiative without taking a moment to consider who's affected, why it matters, and what you hope to accomplish.
Time spent ensuring your working on the right problem is always time well spent.
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