Dear PM Advisor. May 27, 2013

Dear PM Advisor, You have suggested creating an objective for every project that includes the cost, schedule and performance of the project. How can I do this first if we don't know that much about the project? Won't management hold my feet to the fire in meeting the cost and schedule constraints, even when I find out later that these constraints are unrealistic? 

Scared in Maryland.

Dear Scared,

You are right that I suggest the team create a Project Objective in the earliest stages of planning a project. In fact, I suggest that an objective be derived even earlier than that: before the idea has become a project, so that management can visualize what they are authorizing.

A good objective statement is a sentence of 25 words or less that contains the project's cost, schedule and performance. (Scope plus quality). This tool was developed over 50 years ago by NASA. I have used it on every project ever since I learned it almost 20 years ago.

You are also smart to be concerned about stating cost and schedule this early in the life-cycle of a project because you are afraid that these numbers will be carved in stone by management. So how do you prevent this from happening?

Remember that a project plan has a lot of elements, not the least of which is the section called: Issues, Risk and Assumptions. The reason you are nervous about committing to a schedule and budget is that you are in the earliest stages of a project and the questions that need to be answered, the assumptions that have yet to be proven and the issues and risks that have yet to be passed are at the greatest point. At the end of the project you won't be nearly as concerned.

So load up this section of your project plan and make sure that the people who are buying off on your other project constraints are also buying into the project's uncertainties.

Good luck,

PM Advisor.

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