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The first four project fundamentals


Editor's note: Here is another valuable excerpt from the new success book by national business consultant Laurence B. Valant and partner Gayle W. Hustad, "Lead and Manage! The definitive guide for getting the results you want." 


A project is any non-routine or non-recurring effort which has quantified deliverables, start and end dates, a project manager, and specifics of project cost and project expected returns. Projects must have a project plan and structure for tracking and reporting, and therefore major milestones to measure progress. The project manager is responsible to his manager for meeting project deliverables on time and on budget.

For a project to be defined, the following questions must be answered prior to project launch:
 What is the project start date?
 What is the project completion date?
 Who is the project manager?
 What are the projected costs and returns?

Once chosen, the project manager will work with leadership to finalize project budget and create a project plan that includes project deliverables, milestones, and returns. These must be completed prior to the project launch and become the project definition.


Project objectives must be quantified and a system for measuring their achievement defined which must include due dates. Project objectives must be specified so clearly that there is no ambiguity about the objectives themselves or their successful accomplishment. The objectives must be perceived as being fair and attainable by all those involved in the project, including the project manager, the project staff and those who will benefit from the project, whether they are internal or external clients.

The project objectives provide the basis for the project deliverables, which are themselves the basis for setting key project milestones. Achievement of the milestones toward accomplishment of the project objectives become the subject and focus of each review, whether weekly in staff meetings or monthly in individual meetings. Progress toward achieving the objectives as measured by milestone accomplishment must be reviewed each week to assure the project is on schedule and budget, and that the objectives will be obtained as planned.

With the weekly manager reviews in staff meetings of the milestone accomplishments, you are certain to identify problems early on, and have ample time to correct them. In this way, project staff members know precisely how they are doing against the project plan and the delivery of the objectives on time and on budget.


Often companies will divide responsibility for a project among two or more people, mistakenly thinking they will improve the outcome, when all they accomplish is added confusion and blurred accountability. Selecting one project manager to whom overall project responsibility and accountability is assigned is essential. While there may be sub-projects which have managers, these sub-project managers must report to the overall project manager who holds total project accountability.


After the project manager and leadership have agreed the project objectives are attainable, the project manager is then able to staff the project. We have discussed in prior chapters the critical nature of staff selection in general. Staff selection is no less important in project management. Incorrect staffing will make project success elusive, if not impossible, no matter how skillful the project manager may be.

Selection of staff must be based on a clear understanding of the skills required to deliver the project on time and on budget. The project organization must include: the project structure (are there sub-projects requiring their own project management?), the job specifications required to deliver the project milestones, and, the number of staff required for each specific deliverable. The project manager must assure the project staff meets all job specifications and can make a 100 percent time commitment to the project.

One of the most egregious errors committed in project management is borrowing staff from their full time jobs. Projects fail when staff is borrowed. Assure project success by assigning staff full time for the project duration.

Next week: More project fundamentals explored.
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Laurence B. Valant

Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at lvalant@valantco.com or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit www.valantco.com.

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