Launching a project

One of the main causes of project failure is a lack of reflection and agreement on the content and approach at the very beginning. Many problems arise because

  • people are working to different objectives, priorities and timetables;
  • the risks to the project were not anticipated until they occurred;
  • there is unexpected resistance;
  • there are different expectations as to what the project will achieve.

Before you start, it is critical to be clear, for yourself and for all the stakeholders, on

  • why you are doing the project
  • what the project will achieve
  • how it will be delivered
  • who will deliver it
  • when it will be done

If those things are clear to everyone in advance, many problems will be avoided during and after the project.

Almost any development or objective in work can be considered as a project. You can choose to use project management methods or not. The methods are proven to be effective. They can, however, be fantastically bureaucratic and I have even seen them used deliberately to obstruct progress. The one thing that is, in my experience, always worth doing is the writing of a ‘project proposal’ before a project is launched.

The guidance in this template [downloads Word document] will help you create a simplified version of a ‘Project Initiation Document’ as used in formal project management methodology. The guidance is based on practical experience of projects in library, information and research services, over 25 years, which included reference to published methodologies. Versions of this template have proved sufficient for small and relatively informal projects. For very large and formal projects, other contexts, and in case of doubt – refer to published project management methods.

In addition to the fundamentals of the project – why, what, how, who and when? – the template suggests you consider some supporting actions:

  • what could wrong and what can we do about it?
  • how do you ensure quality?
  • who is going to be interested in the project and how do you communicate with them?
  • final clarification, just in case: what is the exact scope of the project, what is specifically excluded from the project, and is there anything that the project depends on?

All this information should be captured in a single document and explicitly agreed by the team working on the project and by the decision-making person or body that has requested the project take place.

Template for project proposal – Word document downloads