Project management – planning or marketing?

by Guy Ralfe on July 10, 2009

Project Narrative

Project management is conjured up as this all conquering planning, scheduling and task orientated activity; but is it really?

Projects are usually constituted when management becomes aware of a threat or an opportunity in their existing operations, which results in some change needed to the operational status quo. Projects by nature (see the earlier post byHimanshu Jhamb on ‘What a project is not‘) imply an uncharted future. This is where the project manager’s role is seen as producing the “plan” of how to get from the current state, to the future desired state at closure.

Projects are filled with uncertainty, risks and unforeseen challenges – would you willingly give up your day job to partake in something labeled “Trip leaving from here and may get there”? This is not usually the kind of offer career conscious people step forward and volunteer for. This is why most projects have resources assigned not accepted to the project.

Speakers and writers on project management are constantly on about making sure you have the right resources on your project – so shouldn’t we produce a powerful and enticing story about why a project exists. With a powerful story an identity for the project is produced that will have people drawn to the project rather than running for cover.

With a desirable proposition, your project story, you now have an offer in the market and you can select the resources you want from those that want to participate. Ever noticed how towards the end of a successful project there are a lot more volunteers than when you started?

So what makes a story powerful? Here are 5 questions to help your thinking:

1. What is the project about?: How the project offer “appears” to a person’s senses, psychology or context. People need to be told what the project is, otherwise they will make up their own interpretation of what it is, which may or may not be the one that was intended.

2. How the project offer affect the concerns and situations? If people cannot connect the project offer with their concerns, they would not understand the need for it. The need has to be established in a story to them that factors in their concerns. For example, people do not think that a threat to an organization actually could be a direct threat to them until they see the direct consequences to their concerns (like a wake-up call).

3. How the project offer is useful or applicable to the story of their future they live in?: People are always in stories of their future. This includes their ambition, commitments, strategy, concerns, situation and capability, to name a few. People will not only think about what a project can do for them but also whether it is consistent with wh

at they are after or not.

4. How important and worthwhile a project offer is? People answer this question by judging if the project offering helps them avoid unfavorable situations in their future and exploit current opportunities.

5. What is the ultimate objective of the project?: People often focus on the disruption and cannot imagine the beautiful and colorful future. A story of the ultimate objective is like letting them smell the flowers before they are actually there

Produce that colorful project story and market your project so that people can’t resist, and want to participate.

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