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Charting the Course: How to Make Your Next Project the Best Project

Charting the Course: How to Make Your Next Project the Best Project Banner Image

I am often asked what project has been my best or favorite. This is a loaded question because usually the person asking is expecting that my answer will include their project. As I think about this question, I've realized that the projects on my ‘top projects’ list all have one thing in common: the vision, goals and requirements were clearly laid out guiding factors that the entire project team knew and followed.

This sets the course and future success of the entire project – this is the Project Charter.

Having a project charter is a major factor in having a successful project, as well as making my list of ‘top projects’.

Being an architect requires me to also have mind reading abilities, an interpreter of thought. My role is to help decipher what the client has in their head by extracting the components of a project charter: their vision, goals, and requirements. Without clear direction, purpose and defined expectations, the project is in danger of floundering and creating disappointment for the client and the entire project team. No one wants that.

In addition to my career as an architect, I am a pilot and fly for fun. Planning a flight is a the epidemy of creating a project charter. From the time I think about a flight I am going make, to the time I land, hangar the plane and log my flight, I have created an informal project charter. I have created a vision for taking a cross country flight. I have created goals related to destinations, etc. and I have identified requirements that may deal with things like minimum altitudes.

When you Google “project charter” you will get oodles of Google pages providing resources such as definitions, templates and project charter instructions. A project charter must be created before any real meaningful work is started as it is impossible to move a step in the right direction without one. Charting the course for anything you do will ensure success and met expectations.

Vision

Think about a time when you took on a big undertaking and how you started. Most likely you envisioned the essence of what you wanted and this informed everything that was applied to the undertaking.

A project with a documented clear vision provides an essence of what the project will be. The vision must also include the reason for pursing the project in the first place. When the vision is clear, the entire project team can see and understand the end result informing the project goals and requirements.

Goals
Once a vision is set, definition as to what it looks like needs to coalesce. This is done through creating goals for the project.

Defining goals helps achieve a vision. Goals for the project should include things like design, sustainability, programmatic, etc. Goals give direction to movement to help achieve an objective or vision.

Requirements
Requirements, I believe, are the most tangible things that visually and physically can show that expectations have been met. Requirements create boundaries for the project and bring definition to the vision and goals.

Within the vision, goals and requirements of a project, thought should also be given to the potential pit falls so that contingencies can be planned for or, at a very minimum, addressed if deviation is necessary.

For a project to make my ‘top project’ list it must be a success for all team members. 

Success can be, and often is, measured in many ways. Success for me covers the spectrum from having fun, to creating learning spaces that students don’t want to leave. Set expectations will chart the course and get you started down the path to a successful project.

Is your upcoming project going to be your best project ever? Will your next project make the ‘Best Project’ list? Will your next project ensure success by having a project charter? I would like to hear some of your project charter philosophies, successes and failures.

Bob Vajgrt, AIA, LEED AP, CDT, ALEP

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