Manage the Requirements, and Let the Project Manage Itself

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

If you manage the requirements, the project will manage itself.

Well, mostly. You might have to do a little bit more work to truly guarantee success. Showing up on a daily basis is pretty well recommended. And you'll likely still have meetings that you need to deal with. At the same time, however, managing the requirements well is critical for project success. Do this, and you will succeed. Fail to do this, and I'm afraid you'll suffer the consequences.

Trust me...I know. I've been there.

I first learned this truth after a headlong collision with reality that immediately followed the statement from my sponsor at the time, who uttered those immortal words that cast fear into the hearts of project managers everywhere: "What's this? This isn't what I wanted." After this and similar incidents, I have spent untold hours and days revising and redrafting deliverables, with the constant fervent hope that this time they will meet expectations. Yes, I have learned the hard way that there is a short, steep, slippery slope that leads straight to the land of project whimsy, where success is determined by the irrational and entirely subjective caprice of another human being.

That's just my pain, mind you. I continue to see grown adults--who should know better--make the same mistakes I have, over and over again. Just like the challenge …

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