What's A Good Project Design?

It's about the "how", not merely the "what". How to design consulting projects?

March 14, 2017
Methods

It's about the "how", not merely the "what". The first thing we do when starting a consulting project is designing the process. Technology allows you plenty of flexibility, but it is the process you design that matters.

The way we make decisions is no less important than the decision we take. It's about the "how", not merely the "what". The first thing we do when starting a consulting project is designing the process. Technology allows you plenty of flexibility, but it is the process you design that matters.

Purpose of process design

An effective process design should generate two outcomes to the final decisions:

Doing what works. Effective design collects all relevant knowledge on how to achieve an outcome, which enables leaders to take informed decisions that bring better results.
Faster delivery. Effective process engages all relevant partners in designing the right solutions, which makes them more committed to delivering change.

Types of decisions

There are many typologies of decisions. We define two major kinds:

What” decisions - on defining the outcomes. They often involve ideological considerations about priorities or allocation. There is no “right” answer.
How to” decisions - on the change needed in budgets, regulations, methods and structures to achieve the outcome. These decisions require managing uncertainties.

Knowledgeable crowds can play a role in both types of decisions; although, the “what” decisions are less about knowledge and more about directions. Most management decisions on strategy, operation and organization have both layers.

Four Questions

A project design addresses four questions:

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW. The question should include the outcome and trigger people to think about what it takes to fulfill it. What would you define as success? What do you want, but you can’t fully control? What do you actually need to decide on?
WHO DOES KNOW. The groups we ask should have a diverse, decentralized and independent approach. Who will be affected by your decisions? Who holds the power to delay or help you? Who knows, studies or has experience in the field?
HOW TO APPROACH. The channels we engage through should make it beneficial for groups to participate. What channel can reach the groups? What is the quickest way for a group to answer? What engagements are already planned?
WHEN TO APPROACH. The timing should make the issue as relevant as possible to the groups you ask. Who should get an invite first to feel included? What planned events should you integrate? What are the external deadlines you have?

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