Your Project Is Not Unique

There are many different definitions of a project: 

PMI – [A Project is] “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.”

APM – “A project is a unique, transient endeavour, undertaken to achieve planned objectives, which could be defined in terms of outputs, outcomes or benefits. “

PRINCE2 – “A project is a temporary venture that exists to produce a defined outcome.”

MyManagementGuide – “a project is defined as a specific, finite activity that produces an observable and measurable result under certain preset requirements.”

Looking at the definitions of projects, you will notice a few common motifs: 

  • A project should produce a change. 
  • A project is a temporary piece of work. (When the change is complete, the project is finished.) 
  • When a successful project is complete, you should be able to count or point out what has changed. 

Every Project Is Not Unique

Even though every project produces a change, it doesn’t mean that every project journey has to be unique. The pitfall (and hubris) that we often fall into is thinking that our project is so special and unique that no one has ever done it before. While it is true that no-one has implemented this specific change in your particular situation, most of what you are doing can be drawn from standards from the way that projects have been successful in the past. I believe that Peter Drucker noted that most (85%) of what you do in business is similar to other companies (everyone invoices, does accounting, answers customer complaints, etc. in very similar ways.) It is in the 15% that businesses innovate and succeed. Airbnb has the same cost, booking, and payment structure to many hotels, but it is the innovation of where the rooms are (in people’s personal residences) that is the innovation. 

You can use the same project structure repeatedly to gain success. In the same way that a call centre provides a script for employees to increase the success that they have on the phone, you should use a ‘script’ for your projects. Your template can tell you exactly what should be done when it should be done, and who should be involved. You will account for the uniqueness of the project within the project objectives. But most of the push to make the change will have the same steps, no matter what project you approach. 

Arguments for Unique Projects

The thought that every project is actually the same (or in the majority similar) to the last one is hard to swallow. We all want to think that our projects are special, and therefore need to have a re-invented approach every time we start a project. Re-using a standard (cookie-cutter) approach doesn’t take away from the special-ness of your project. A grade four school-year is a type of project. The change in students is from a young person with grade 3 knowledge to a student entering grade 5. Many of the strategies that the teacher uses are used around the world, but that doesn’t make the change any less special or amazing. Your project is important and unique, so focus your energy on the aspects of the project that are important and unique, and don’t waste energy on pieces that others have developed that you can use. 

Practical Application

In the next two days, we will look specifically at a 21-day project plan and a 90-day project plan that you can use to help you succeed in every project.