March 18, 2011 1 Comment
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
– Proverbs xxix. 18. Old Testament
Most project management teachings emphasize the technical or more scientific aspects of project management (e.g., Work Breakdown Structures, PERT Diagrams, and Performance Indices) and gloss over the equally important “artistic” areas like leadership, motivation, and communication. With an eye on the artistic, one of the vital parts of successful project execution is the ability to keep a team motivated and working together toward shared project goals. One useful method to accomplish this is the project vision statement.
What is the value of a project vision statement?
A project vision statement – a concise statement of a project’s objectives that speaks not only to the resulting product or system but also to the value delivered to the business – can be used by project managers to address some of the major communication and motivation challenges that projects face.
Often, projects reach a point where it may become harder to keep a team energized and engaged. Project managers need to be able to maintain the motivation of the team at times like these. A project vision statement that addresses the value of the project reminds the team of the importance of their efforts and may help to re-focus them when they need it most.
A project vision may also help project team members keep their “eye on the prize.” Amidst all the deliverables, the long hours, and the extra effort—not to mention the organizational challenges and the politics—a core project team may become distracted. Extended team members (e.g., Subject Matter Experts, Quality Review Boards, and Support Teams) may become disengaged and unresponsive, or perhaps worse, they may create out-of-scope distractions for the project team. These scope changes may result in effort being spent that does not move the project forward. In these situations, a project vision statement that is specific and concrete can be a touchstone for the team to get re-aligned towards the central objectives of the project and focused on the shared project goals.
Whether the project team needs additional motivation or improved focus, all can benefit from a solid project vision statement. Spending the time and effort to craft a vision statement early in your project will pay off later.
What is a project vision statement?
In the same way that a business vision statement condenses the complexities of a strategic plan into a single statement, a project vision statement captures the essential objective of the project. It is something to be remembered, repeated in hallways and in elevators, and attached to team communiqués; it is not something to be filed away.
A vision statement should be crisp. It does not need to convey every nuance, cover every wherefore, or address every caveat of a project’s goal(s). It is the distillation of those components down to the core nugget. It should be accessible. It should avoid technical jargon, acronyms, and language that is overly specific to any one functional area. Keep it clear and human, not cryptic and mechanical. Ideally, a project vision statement will capture the essence of the project and is both aspirational and inspirational.
How does one create a project vision statement?
Developing a project vision statement is not simple. The project manager should plan to bring the right individuals together and have them invest some time and effort in creating the project vision statement. Getting input from multiple perspectives helps ensure that the resulting vision statement has wider appeal and is more holistic. Team leads, sponsors, subject matter experts and even parts of the customer base should be engaged in the effort.
Sometimes, a vision statement is best generated in a facilitated session. Ideas can be gathered, assessed, grouped and summarized. Eventually, the core ideas will be synthesized into a single statement. However, crafting an initial project vision may be just the beginning. As a project evolves, the project manager should periodically revisit the vision statement to ensure that it continues to capture the essence of the project.
Just as the new vision statement for Slalom Chicago acts as the foundation for a complex strategic plan, so does the project vision statement support the goals, objectives, scope definition, and other artifacts that define the project. Tom Snapp, the General Manager for Chicago, did not invoke the Old Testament for vision, but instead leveraged his deep roots in the Hip-Hop culture and chose “G.E.T.” (for Growth, Excellence and Teamwork) from Will I. Am and the Black Eyed Peas’ song Boom Boom Pow (“Gotta Get GET”). You too may dig deep, and be creative, to develop a similar simple vision statement to charge up your team.
Authors: Phil Fry and Carl Manello
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