Around 10 years ago, I watched a TED talk that fundamentally changed the way I approached programmes and projects. 
I and those around me were managing these programmes and projects in the same way. We all spent time with our sponsors to understand what they wanted. We all wrote our project charters (which later gathered dust on shelves) that justified what our sponsors wanted and started to think about the most appropriate way to deliver them. We all assembled our project teams and tried to work out everything that needed to be done. We created a plan. We were all set. 
 
Or were we? 
 
The problem was that we became so focused on WHAT we needed to do and HOW we would deliver it, we didn’t stay true to the objectives of the project – the WHY. As we got stuck into delivering these projects, problems arose. Scope was creeping. Solutions were being gold-plated. Programmes were over-running. Projects were over-spending. Stakeholders were frustrated. Project sponsors were unhappy. 
 
It was around this time, I watched Simon Sinek's 3 Golden Circles TED talk. It was a light bulb moment to start with the WHY and remain focused on it. I looked back at those project charters – all of our objectives were written as results. They didn’t convey a real purpose. 
 
As I started my next programme, I decided to experiment. We’d start with the WHY. 
 
We assembled the team, and I asked the sponsor to talk to them purely about the WHY. WHY were we really doing the project? What was our real purpose? 
 
The sponsor had a vision. A belief that by introducing a new digital product we could make it simpler and safer for everyone to access products and services online. The use cases were many – shopping, public services, financial services, gambling and social media to name a few. Whilst the results that would follow were really important to the business, we recognised we could only get people to adopt the new product if we really connected with them. We needed to align our purpose with their need: We believe that we can make it simpler and safer for everyone to access products and services online. 
 
This strap-line became our north star. It framed our approach. It shaped how we scoped the work. It anchored our MVP and allowed us to stay true to it. It defined how we structured the teams. It allowed us to connect the technology, product and sales teams in way I hadn’t seen on previous product launches. Everyone was aligned. Now, we really were set… 
 
Results and impact 
 
Fast forward and the results were amazing. The product was profitable within 3 months of launch carrying the highest conversion rates in the market. Scope hadn’t crept. We’d remained focused. We delivered ahead of schedule. We came in under budget. People naturally swarmed to solve problems. We’d all be aligned on the WHY. 
 
If you’re not already doing it, try starting with the WHY on your next project. If you’d like us to help, please get in touch at hello@clearrockprojects.co.uk. 
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