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Let Us Show You the Secrets of Outcome Based Project Management



Traditional project management only gets you so far. Traditional, PMI certified project management relies heavily on managing to task lists. First, you’d organize your activities, then establish a timeline, and finally align contributors to each activity. While simple and straightforward, this approach doesn’t consistently provide meaningful results and visibility into the status of your project.

Let’s say your boss asks you about the progress of your project. You respond that you are 40, 55, and 70% complete with various activities. But what does that percentage actually mean?

Percentages don’t reflect the accuracy of completion toward desired outcomes, and executives want concrete responses that will leave them feeling reassured about their project’s progress. Also, unless something is done, it doesn’t really matter what percentage of done it is – it still isn’t complete or usable.

How do you communicate meaningful outcomes and status when you are only tracking activities?

Although traditional project management has its benefits, it lacks the attention to key milestones and deliverables that executives look for. At The Spur Group, we have found that a more outcome based project management approach leads to stronger communications and better results.

Project management should help you achieve outcomes

Our business operations experts at The Spur Group have defined our approach to successful project management in four key steps. These steps focus on comprehensively working backwards from your strategic vision and projects’ goals to ensure all activities are both achievable and worthwhile to the bigger picture.

Before jumping into a breakdown of each step, it’s also worth noting that not every project is worth undertaking to begin with. First, you need to build out your business case, then ensure you have an adequate foundation for the project.

Step 1 – Define project parameters

Start with defining the goals of the project and ensuring they are aligned to the overall strategic vision and priorities. Next, determine how complex the project is and how much complexity you are willing to undertake. Objectives, budget, deadlines, and key stakeholders are all important to factor in. By starting with your goals, with strong focus on aligning to the overall strategic vision and priorities, you are able to develop execution plans that will be relevant in the short and long-term. When you can easily trace an activity to the goal that helps achieve your strategic vision, it is much easier to ensure value.

Step 2 – Align on project organization

Figure out your RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) for each milestone and deliverable. A simple way of thinking about this is - who has a voice, who has a vote, and who has a veto? Informed has no voice, consulted has a voice but no vote, and accountable has a vote and veto powers. Once you have an idea of who is contributing to what and how, communicate that to all affected parties, and most importantly – secure their approval. You will avoid major headaches down the road if people know and agree to their level of contribution – it can get ugly when someone without veto power tries to use it. Driving alignment on roles and ownership for deliverable and objective completion keeps the focus on enabling outcomes, rather than simply assigning tasks. When people know the end-result and key milestones they are responsible for, they are much more likely to prioritize meaningful activities.

Step 3 – Keep people accountable

Based on the objectives, budget, deadlines, roles, and responsibilities defined in steps one and two, use rhythm of business tools and best practices to keep the project on track. Make sure people are meeting their commitments so deliverables are completed, and milestones are hit. By this step you’ve set up your project in a way that enables your team to focus on and achieve their goals. This step ensures they follow through with the plan and make it a reality.

Step 4 – Manage outcomes

Track your deliverables, issues, decisions, actions to make them easily accessible to the project team. Doing this effectively will allow you to scale, reduce redundancy, and help ensure success. Tracking and communicating information that may impact a goal, milestone, or execution plan prevents your team from wasting time on now-irrelevant tasks.

This approach works

While it requires a lot of work upfront, setting up your project correctly will pay off. Strong alignment to strategic vision and a priority on enabling timely goal completion will get your business where it needs to go.

Rigorous project management only provides real value when execution plans are relevant and teams are aligned on who is responsible for what. On top of that, when it’s crunch time and no one has any time or mental space, having a common understanding and easily referable log for the status and outcomes of your project can be a life saver.

Not only do these fundamentals help us run projects well, they help us run them at scale.

Though not every project warrants outside project management assistance, it can be an invaluable service. To stay relevant in this ever-changing market, your business operations and project management capabilities need to be exceptional to enable your business to grow.

Chris McCall

Chris McCall

As Chairman of the Board, Chris manages The Spur Group’s strategic planning practice and has over 25 years of experience across business strategy, operations and channel management. He was part of Deloitte’s Mergers & Acquisitions service line, where he helped to develop the methodology that has been used on hundreds of integrations world-wide. He was also part of Microsoft’s Global Partner and Corporate Strategic Planning teams where he led Go-To-Market strategy for Microsoft’s largest alliance. Chris has a BA in Economics and Accounting from Claremont McKenna College and an MBA in Finance and Strategic Management from the Wharton School.