I have a (some would say*) slightly irritating habit of banging on about the vision, benefits and objectives of a project. Not without reason – I genuinely and quite fervently believe that if you establish these correctly on a project you’re already halfway to success.
However, it’s not always easy to articulate why these things are so important. And that’s particularly true of the vision. The benefits and objectives serve a clear function on a project (which I won’t go into now, but I bang on about at length in my book). They’re – usually, at least – tangible and measurable and so it’s much easier to convey or understand the sense in defining them.
The vision, however, doesn’t serve an express purpose and tends to be a bit high-level and woolly. Some might even say (deep breath, whisper it) unnecessary*.
Recently though, I saw this video of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I accept he is not, for many, the go-to voice on all things project management. But the man understands vision. And there is no denying that he has risen to the top of three separate industries (Mr Universe bodybuilder, A-list Hollywood actor, Governor of California politician). Some would put this down to work ethic, tenacity or just plain luck. But Arnie himself? He puts it down to having a clear vision.
Having a clear idea of where you want to get to, is the surest way of setting yourself on the right path to get there. A project without a vision is a journey without a destination. Your benefits describe what you will achieve along the way, your objectives are the things you must actually do to get there. But your vision is your destination, and having a clear one in mind makes every decision along the journey that much more straightforward. You simply ask “does this bring us closer to our destination than the alternative?” If the answer is yes, there’s a good chance that’s the right decision for your project.
To extend the analogy further, it’s hard to get anywhere if you don’t know your destination. But imagine trying to get a whole team of people somewhere, when no-one is agreed on the destination. Project work is team work so it is vital that everyone on the team has a shared idea of where we are headed.
Before you start your next project (or even while working on your current project) ask yourself if you – and those around you – are agreed on where you’re heading, i.e. if you understand the project vision. If you don’t, now is a good time to get together and define one for yourselves so you are all pulling in the same direction. It will pay dividends.
And for an extra boost – watch the Arnold Schwarzenegger video. Whatever you think of Arnie, his films or his politics, it’s difficult not to be inspired by his story, or motivated by his vision. I think it may well be the best film he’s yet made.
*actually, some have said.