Beyond Execution

Making a difference in project management by training, speaking and writing


Begin With the End in Mind

Posted by beyondexecution on December 21, 2009 at 8:30 AM

"Begin with the end in mind"


I love this quote.  It defines everything I do.  In case you haven't heard it before, it's one of the key 7 habits of successful people, from the book by Stephen Covey.  I certainly don't downplay any of the other habits, but this is the one that resonates with me the most.  Whenever I take on a task, project or endeavor, I always take the time to imagine what the end result looks like.


The story of professional athletes' preparations has been told many times.  Studies have shown that athletes who can imagine themselves making successful plays, like a basketball player throwing the ball into the net, have greater success than those who do not.  Yes, practice and repetition are important as well, but the envisioning adds an extra dimension.


When I create presentations and courses, I take a look at who my audience is, and envision how they would react to the materials and content I put in front of them - what do they want?  I also take a look at the messages that I want to say - what do I want?  What one or two things do I want them to remember after I have left?  And during my presentations, I maintain this image of success, and am looking for it as I talk.


I also apply this concept when I consult people on identifying project risk.  The way risk identification is done today, is what I call the "crystal ball" method.  We try to predict as many things that can go wrong with the project.  Typically, this is simply a collection of each team members' experience of issues from past projects.  The trouble is, this is hard to do.  We're actually not that good at predicting failure.  But we are good at envisioning success.


So, I like to turn it around.  Take the time with the team to document all the successful pieces of the project.  From the overall deliverable perspective, success is mainly the work breakdown structure (WBS) and its components.  But there are other aspects as well, such as client satisfaction, management approval, team morale, third party reliance and even  additional work/projects. 


After all of the success components are shown, then step back and take a look.  Ask yourselves the question "What can go wrong from this list?"  Try it.  I'll bet you have an easier time of identifying what can go wrong, and are able to find more risks than you did before.

Categories: Project Management Tips, Risk, PM Improvements