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Project objectives – how to use commander’s intent

In an earlier post, I discussed the importance of a Commander’s intent. Since I was introduced to the concept, this has brought me lots of insight and the power to ask the right questions to the project sponsors.

Let’s say that you have a project which has three objectives: one clearly operational (we need feature X), one clearly strategic (all our solutions should be Y) and a third which is somewhere in the middle. This is perhaps not that uncommon but often you don’t clarify that. But do think about if there are both long time and short time objectives, strategic or operational, etc.

And then, what you do is that you print these three objectives in front of the project sponsor and ask which of these matches the commander’s intent. That is if everything else goes wrong in the project: what is the one objective that we need to accomplish? If all plans fail, which objective do we turn to and work to meet?

In other words: is it better to miss the feature if we live up to the strategic objectives? Or can we disregard the strategy if we have to in order to get that feature.

It’s important to clarify this to all stakeholders from the beginning. There are always those who thinks that the strategic objectives that are most important and there are always those who thinks the features (functional or non functional) that are most important. But the one to make the call is the sponsor. He might not know this but if he don’t, you shouldn’t start the project.

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