Integrated Project Management: Clarity of Purpose

Duncan Ross Russell
Clarity of purpose gives the project the shared understanding of success that ensures all project participants are working towards the same goal.

In my first article of this series I introduced the philosophy of integrated project management, a philosophy that recognises the different make up of each project and applies strong leadership to a team, encouraging a collaborative working ethos with clarity of purpose and strategy to deliver a successful project. In this second article, I will look in more detail at the need for clarity of purpose and how it is achieved.

Why do we need clarity of purpose?

No project exists for its own sake. Projects are established to deliver a set of defined business benefits. Different stakeholders, from users to managers, will perceive the business benefits and therefore success differently, creating conflicting views of project success. These differing views can be both alternative perspectives of a multidimensional success or conflicting expectations that will need to be balanced. The figure below illustrates this multidimensional nature of success.

Only when the team shares an understanding of where they are going and what that destination looks like to everyone is there any hope of all getting there. Clarity of purpose gives the project the shared understanding of success that ensures all project participants are working towards the same goal.

How do we achieve clarity of purpose?

At inception the business benefits must be clearly defined by the Project Board, establishing measures of success and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as appropriate, but not forgetting the more subjective aspects of success that cannot be readily measured.

Although stakeholders will see success differently the definition of the business benefits need to be shared by all. This cannot be achieved solely in the drafting of the business benefits but will require a communication strategy that ensures all stakeholders have a full, multidimensional understanding of the project and so can interpret the business from all angles, understanding the balances that may have to be made. This will then inform the definition of the business benefits, how these will be measured and how they will be communicated to all stakeholders throughout the project.

How to maintain a clarity of purpose

Maintaining clarity of purpose requires communication at all levels and milestones of the project. Communicating the business benefits regularly and ensuring that goals, decisions and actions are consistent with these benefits ensures that all project participants are still working towards that same goal.

The Project Board is ultimately responsible for the success of the project. The Project Board set the business benefits and has defined and communicated them. During implementation, they need to continually assess the impact of changes and unforeseen circumstances against the probability of achieving the business benefits, ensuring that decisions made maximise the opportunities for success.

In Summary

You do not need to look far to see examples of projects that established and maintained a clear purpose throughout, such as the London Olympics 2012, and those that failed to establish clarity of purpose, such as the Millennium Dome or Scottish Parliament. Only through setting and maintaining a clarity of purpose in all its dimensions, can the project maximise its opportunity for true success.

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