3 Steps for Preventing, “That’s Not Quite What I Had in Mind.”

September 16, 2015

It happens all too often on new projects. You’ve nailed down the project requirements, established a budget, and set a date for completion. Next, you identify the project team, assign roles, and conduct the kick-off meeting, and you’re off to the races!

Then, several months later, at the big reveal, the project sponsor utters a less-than-enthusiastic response: “That’s not quite what I had in mind.”

Here are three suggestions for preventing this on your next project:

1. Define the Requirement in Business Terms: Technical requirements are important, but they are also subject to interpretation and change based upon factors not apparent at the outset of the project. Requirements should include a detailed description of the measurable business outcomes that you seek to create through the initiative. Establishing up-front agreement with the project sponsor and stakeholders around these details will help get everyone on the same page with regard to the end result you seek to achieve. It will also provide a basis for measuring and managing the success of the project moving forward.

2. Restate the Outcome Goals at Every Meeting: Remember playing the “telephone” game as a child? The first person in line whispers a phrase into the next person’s ear, who then passes it along. What starts out as “banana” can end up as “bandana.” You can prevent the cumulatively negative impact of small misperceptions throughout the project lifecycle by revisiting the goals for business outcomes at every meeting. This will also provide early notice if the stated goals are not realistic and need to be revisited with the project sponsor.

3. Keep Stakeholders Iteratively Engaged: The Waterfall Project Management Methodology from the 70s is often too inflexible for today’s rapidly changing business and technology environments. While wholesale adoption of the agile methodology may not make sense for your project, it pays to take a page from the agile playbook and bring stakeholders into project reviews periodically. This will help keep your stakeholders engaged and provide the opportunity for iterative improvements along the way rather than at the end of the lifecycle when changes are much more expensive.

Do you have a project coming up that could benefit from Shelby’s deep procurement, technical and project management expertise? Please contact

Archit Singh
Senior Manager
The Shelby Group