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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Simple Steps to Ensure Your Project Stands a Chance

Why does it happen so often that projects that are initially driven by passion and conviction quickly fizzle out, never to be remembered except with regret? My observation and experiences have produced a check-list that has helped many people, including me, bring projects into the real world. Perhaps this check- list is exactly what the doctor ordered, as it were, for your project.

1. What is the project? You may be overwhelmed by the instinct that something momentous and important must be pursued, and that you are the one "chosen" to bring it about. That instinct, that sense of mission, is actually a good thing, because it represents the drive by which visions are propelled. What you need to do is to create clarity on what the vision that must be driven by the energizing instinct is. Get yourself a piece of paper and, even if you start in a random manner, make a list of projects that can be pursued. You can even be wildly ambitious, and start with "build a hotel". Keep listing until something resonates. When you hit that sweet spot, write a paragraph, and keep writing till you dry out. When you are done, write a sentence that captures the essential aspects of what you wrote in the paragraph. That sentence should tell you what the project is.

2. Who needs it? Ask first, "do I need this project?" If you don't need the project and what it will do, abandon it. That is not the same as saying that you must pursue a project only for selfish reasons. The truth, however, is that for the project to succeed, you must need to do it. The need may be material, intellectual, emotional or spiritual, but that need is the flame that will keep the candle glowing. Next, ask "who else needs it?" At this point, it helps to become social. Ask a cross-section of your community whether a project like the one you are thinking of will be of use to them. If on the whole the answer is yes, then your project will be supported, enhancing its chances of sustainability and success.

3. Can it be done? For some projects, the answer is easy because similar things have been done before. For others, some imagination and thought needs to be invested. When you ask yourself this question, you help yourself to focus on real-world issues, and at the same time to work up the problem-solving adrenaline that enables us to tackle challenges. The question "can it be done?" also triggers an enlightening enquiry about method and capacity.

4. What is needed to do it? Here you are marshalling your resources, and the outlines of an actual action plan are beginning to emerge. By listing the needs of the project-human expertise, materials, financing and time- you are beginning to visualize the project, and this is a healthy indication that something will actually come of it.

Do please share your views and experiences on this topic by leaving your comment on this blog.

Jonathan Wutawunashe is a Project Execution Consultant and author of the motivational book Fulfill Your Threats.


  1. This is extremely valuable information that one needs to avoid frustration once a project is launched. I am one who went into projects in the fire of the moment without thinking twice to evaluate its chances at viability. After spending time, money and effort the projects came to a dead end. Good advice

  2. Thank you for your helpful comment. Believe me, many, many people have suffered pain and disappointment as a result of not planning projects carefully before launching them.

  3. A major infrastructure initiative is underway in India. While there is a deluge of projects there are no fund constraints. But the projects are suffering delays due to inadequate project execution. These views are echoed by the Indian Minister for Roads and Highways in today's edition of 'Economic Times'.
    One of the cause of delay in execution is project planning deficiency. while we have moved into the 'Public Private Partnership' mode the project managers are slow in graduating to a 'Timely Project Delivery' mode. it leads to delays and cost overruns.
    In this background the blogs of H.E. Jonathan Wutawunashe are contemporary, lucid and well presented. I am sure the project managers and project planners of the day stand to benefit equally from his most simple way of describing the complex issues.

  4. Thanks Naresh. I know that you are a highly placed Senior Manager and leading practitioner in the field. To have you comment so positively on these blog posts and bring your well-grounded knowledge to the discussion is a high honour. As I read your comment, it struck me that you blend so powerfully the "software" insights you shared recently with colleagues in a Harvard seminar room and the "hardware" experience you have acquired as a practitioner in the fields of engineering and infrastructure. Thank you for bringing such value to the discussion.


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