How to Manage a Project

Project Management

Project Objectives

It is the project objectives which, perhaps more than anything else, “defines” a project and makes it concrete - what is the project there to achieve and by when? The difficulty is that often, everyone involved or affected by the project has their own ideas and interpretation of what the objectives should be, and even when agreement has been reached, as time moves on the ideas and interpretations diverge again.

Traditional project management defines project objectives in terms of three elements:

Time Cost Quality Triangle

The balance between the three then sets the "tone" of the project - where the priorities lie when decisions have to be made. This approach brought great benefits in terms of clarity and definition but there was a danger of project becoming too internally focussed - focussing too much on "outputs" and too little on "outcomes". Current practice has moved to include "customer satisfaction" as a partial remedy to this.

However, projects are more complex than this and the project objectives need to be specified on a broader scale. In particular, the project needs to be defined to take account of the requirements of the key stakeholders - those with a vested interest in the outcomes of the project. For these projects we suggest the following two-stage process:

  1. Establish Stakeholders Requirements
    Carry out a review of the various stakeholders of the project (those with a vested interest in the project and its’ outcomes) and establish the criteria (four or five) by which they will assess the success of the project.
  2. Develop Terms of Reference
    The development of terms of reference to satisfy those criteria. Best done with an overall definition and description of the project and its aims (possibly including cost, time and quality), supported by project objective for each of the major stakeholders. When agreed with the Sponsor, this then forms the terms of reference.

We find this approach provides the best balance between on the one hand taking account conflicting requirements and on the other having a clear project focus.

It needs to be done during the initial scoping study and is best done with the project team, possibly supplemented by key stakeholder representatives. This not only creates better terms of reference but is also excellent team-building.

The resulting terms of reference then provides an excellent basis for the project plan and for discussions/negotiations with the Project Sponsor and possibly certain key stakeholders.


example stakeholder analysis


Project to introduce Project Management Training

Overall Description

To develop and introduce project management training into the organisation for managers who manage projects as part of their wider responsibilities. Training to be cost effective and start late 1999.

Key Objectives

  • For the Managers & Staff; to provide training for managers and staff which is practical and relevant, and which builds skills and confidence in their ability to manage their projects and produce successful outcomes.
  • For Senior Management; to support them with a programme of training which will lead to an increase in the organisation’s project management capability, and a consistent approach to its management of projects.
  • For the IT Unit; to support rather than conflict with the established PRINCE methodology used by the IT Unit in project managing IT projects.
  • For the Human Resources Unit; to ensure that it has project management training, which is leading edge, which fits with its other training, and which is seen to make a significant contribution to the organisation’s effectiveness and capability.