Step 2. Define the 'why' and the 'what'
Setting the scene
Imagine your partner wants you to do a DIY project on your house. If they ask you to decorate part of the house, your response will probably be 'which part of the house?' The clarification is 'I want you to decorate the front room'. By asking a question, you now understand what you need to achieve with the project.
Underlying the request to decorate your front room is another question: why should you decorate it? You can complete a task only knowing what outcome you want, but it is very useful to understand also why you are to do it. The decorating might be required because you want to sell your house and the front room is looking tatty and this will reduce the selling price. Alternatively, it could be that the front room is unpleasant to sit in with its dated and scruffy decoration and, as you plan to live there for years to come, you are to redecorate it to be a really nice room to relax in. In the first case, you may decide that a quick flick round with the paint brush will be enough to convince a buyer to pay the asking price. In the latter you may take a more critical look and do some quality and more fundamental decorating.
In business, projects are usually considerably more complex than this, but the principle that there is an underlying reason why you are doing it (the 'why'), and a way you are going to achieve this (the 'what'), remains true. So, for example, if your project is to launch a new product (the 'what'), the underlying 'why' is probably something like: to increase revenues from customers in a specific segment of the market. Good project managers know that one of the core reasons they are successful is because they get clarity around why their project exists, and what it is there to do. Successful projects start by understanding clearly what the end point is.
Isn't this just common sense? Yes!
In this chapter I am going to explain how to understand and write the 'why' and the 'what' into a single, simple, short document called the Project Definition.
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