In the excitement of kicking off a project, people can get lost in all the details that come along.

1.     What features can I add?
2.     How soon can we get this done?
3.     How am I going to keep track of all this stuff?
Sadly, they lose sight of the two key questions they should be asking.
1.     What is the goal of the project?
2.     How am I going to measure success of the project?
When you’re discussing the scope of a project, you want to make sure that the activities that you do, the features you’re looking to add or the discussions you’re having all will get you closer to your goal.   Projects can easily fall victim to the shiny object syndrome and before you know it you're way off track and not sure how to get back..  I got the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Dirk Elmendorf a couple weeks ago where he related a story to the group about just this type of situation.  He was working with a startup and they were having discussions about features to add to their software.  The group he was working with kept getting off track, as geeks tend to do when talking about cool technology, so they wrote the project’s goal on a whiteboard at the front of the room.  Every time their conversation veered away from their goal they could point to the sentence on the board to put them back on track.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to clarify your goal is to ask yourself “How will I know when this project is a success?”  Project Managers often discover when they answer that question the goal they thought they were solving for is not what they really need.  I was in a meeting this morning to help a colleague scope out a project and started with asking him to define the problem the project was looking to solve.  After chatting for a while and going through project benefits, possible outcomes, risks and mitigation strategies he realized that the big problem he thought he was solving for could be broken into several smaller projects that would be easier to complete.  By writing down his success factors we could strategize how to meet the individual goals and his big project became a lot less intimidating.


By Jeff Kelly