Project Management

What Does Done Look Like?

Glen is Vice President Program Planning and Controls, Niwot Ridge LLC.

To answer the question, we need more than cost, schedule and requirements. We need a set of capabilities that are agreed upon, and tangible evidence that they have been delivered. In Part 2 of a series, we show how to go about discovering the capabilities needed for project success.

In the first installment of this series — “5 Questions PMs Must Ask” — we outlined the five immutable principles that must be addressed by project leaders and teams in order to succeed. They take the form of questions, and in this article we will answer the first question: What Does Done Look Like?

The Project Management Institute suggests we start exploring the question by defining the requirements of the project. The AACEI Total Cost Management guidance agrees, as do any number of other project management methods. But this is wrong.

Requirements need a reason to exist. That reason is the answer to the question “Why?” — why are we doing the project? Why is the customer willing to spend money to have work performed?

If we don’t have an answer, it is difficult, if not impossible, to assign a value to any of the requirements, technical or operational. To meaningfully answer the question “Why” we must develop a set of needed capabilities —defined simply as the capacity of being used. But that’s a bit too simple. An …


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"He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever."

- Chinese Proverb

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