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Why Project Managers Should Prepare a Speech from Day One



You just got a mandate to manage a program or a project. What is the most important thing you should think of constantly from the beginning until the end of the project? We all tend to think of the triple constraints (scope, schedule, and cost), the risks, and the human resources. In brief, we think of the PMI PMBOK knowledge areas. All these items are important; however, there is one key item that can help address all these project management challenges. It is the speech that will help get peoples’ attention, cooperation, and contribution. So, what is this speech that project managers should think of and prepare from day one?


Project managers regularly need to:

  • Involve the stakeholders to find consensus on key challenges;
  • Involve the project team to help identify risks, determine mitigation plans, and figure out potential solutions for encountering issues;
  • Update the project status;
  • Negotiate with people, inside and outside of the organization, who are involved in or affected by the project;
  • Resolve conflicts.


Thus, project managers need to speak to many people to ask for their help, expectations, engagements, and commitments. This is during formal meetings, coffee breaks, lunches, in corridors, and so on.


One tip is to prepare a speech that can be used to approach all the people involved in the project. The project/program manager should continuously look for valuable information to update this speech as the project evolves. Furthermore, the speech should take into account the target audience.

One tip is to prepare a speech that can be used to approach all the people involved in the project. The project/program manager should continuously look for valuable information to update this speech as the project evolves. Furthermore, the speech should take into account the target audience.

This speech should provide the answer to four questions:

1- Why are we doing this project?

2- What are we aiming to achieve?

3- Where are we?

4- Where do we go?


Based on each situation, you may need to deliver the whole speech or a portion. However, I would recommend discussing ‘why’ before ‘what’ and presenting ‘where we are’ before ‘where we are going’.


1- Why Are We Doing This Project/Program?

The answer to this question is a fact. We are not talking about something that evolves during the project. That is why, once we agree on why we are doing the project at the beginning, we tend to forget about it afterward, while we should regularly remember it, especially during tough situations.


The answer to the ‘why’ question is paramount because it touches the emotional aspect. It allows connecting with people. It helps get people to listen when we speak. It helps attain buy-in, and most importantly, it helps persuade the crowd to follow us. In other words, it helps us to lead a group of people so that they contribute effectively to deliver the expected results. Therefore, it is important to start with ‘why’ as much as possible.


Based on my experience, I completely agree with Simon Sinek, author and speaker on leadership and management, when he recommends starting with ‘why’ because people buy ‘why’ you do something, not what you do!


2- What Are We Aiming to Achieve?

The answer to this question is the description of the project’s product(s) with a summary of the work required to deliver the product(s). The answer could also be the summary of the project scope or the work breakdown structure (WBS).


This is a critical point that can lead to project success or failure. Hence, project managers need to constantly reiterate what we want to achieve through the project. The stakeholders should not only have the same understanding of the project’s product(s) but also commit to the work required to achieve the project’s goals. Thus, any change to the project scope should be documented and approved. This is a foundation that will help build and maintain the subsequent planning (schedule, cost, human resources, and so on). Even when the business requirements keep on changing or when we aim to reduce the time to market, we need to validate what we want to achieve both in the short and long term. In such cases, we usually use an Agile methodology; Scrum or Kanban for example. However, whatever the project management methodology used, we should always pay attention to what we aim to achieve in the short, medium, and long term.


3- Where Are We?

This is evolving information that the project manager should constantly capture. The project manager should be ready to answer this question at any time because people are constantly eager to know the up-to-date project status. This is also a preparatory step before asking for specific action items.


Moreover, the project status information should consider the target audience. For example, with executives, you might focus on major risks and the gap between what was planned versus the actual in terms of scope, schedule, and cost. Alternatively, with the project team, you might focus on the activities status, encountered issues, and remaining tasks.


4- Where Do We Go?

People like to have a leader who shows them the direction along with the next steps. However, there are situations where we need to focus on the short-term actions and other situations where we focus on the long-term steps. That is why the project manager should constantly develop two visions:


1- The global high-level steps remaining to close the project.

This is brought up at the regular meetings and discussions with all the people involved in the project, including the stakeholders, executives, clients, project team, third parties, and so on.


2- The short-term action items.

What can we deliver in two weeks, for example? This sounds like a sprint of an Agile Scrum methodology. However, whatever project management methodology, we should always set short-term objectives for the project team. Thus, the work needs to be decomposed into small work packages, which will make up the project deliverables. Some of the benefits of this approach are the following:

  • Increase the confidence through quick wins;
  • Identify risks, issues, and gaps as soon as possible; and
  • Effectively manage the time sheets.


So, you are managing a project! What is your project speech?



Abder Nadir is President of Solution3P, IT consulting firm based in Montreal. Abder has a twenty-five year track record of success in delivering IT projects. The focus of Abder’s work has been on helping organizations creating value through the implementation of the best IT solutions using project management best practices.


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