Without our insistence many clients would never define and communicate a set of guiding principles for their project. I’m not sure why this is the case. Maybe it is because too many organizations are too focused on managing rather than leading their people. To me, there is a big difference between being a good manager and a good leader. A good leader sets the direction and a good manager takes you there.
They present a set of rules that help project team members make the right decisions when faced with a choice. Choices take many forms in client projects. One decision might be to include or exclude a particular piece of functionality, another to leave a process as-is or redesign it. This may sound no different to you than doing a good job of managing the project scope. In fact, guiding principles are essential to managing scope. They help project team members to make the right decision when it comes to how to answer a particular question and solve a particular problem. Quickly making directionally correct decisions – that point toward common goals – can save months of time and millions of dollars over the life of a project.
If the key decision makers are always there to immediately make the right decisions and own the outcomes, you may not. But, as soon as you create separate sub-groups responsible for particular areas the centralized decision making falls apart. Without guiding principles, each group relies on their own ideas of what and how things should be done, their own ideas of priorities and, by the way, they will always want to optimize decisions for the areas they serve.
For instance, “We will have world-class customer service.” What is world-class customer service? Does the leader want an increased number of interaction channels, less wait time, one-call-and-done or something else? Does this mean you don’t need to worry about either the implementation or the operational cost of customer service? You see, even though the guideline is there, it isn’t specific enough for project team members to understand how to apply it to each decision point they encounter.
They may have been part of a project charter document to which only the original team members were exposed. One indicator of success in a project is how many of the decisions are made early in the process; during the design phase. To avoid having project team members make the wrong decisions, define a good set of guiding principles from the beginning. If you establish the guiding principles when you start building your business case it will help to get everyone on the same page. If your project is large you may need to refine the guiding principles as the project team is forming and implementation starts.
It’s better to write them late than never; communicate them to everyone involved with the project. They should know the guiding principles by heart and have easy access to them at all times. –Linda Toops