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I attended a project team session this week for a client that has been working on an improvement program for over a year. Over halfway through the two-hour discussion (my first with the team), a project leader said, “You know, while we’re talking about our project routines, we really should define what this program is and is not.” He went on to share that the project goals, duration and outcomes were all ambiguous resulting in confusion, lack of progress and a generally poor work environment (some weeks I’m a project priest hearing confession).

You have to start with why. Why are we doing this? Why are we doing this today? Simon Sinek calls it the golden circle. For improvement projects, it often relates to a presenting problem. Get the why right, and the what, how and when can naturally follow. Get it wrong and people won’t have a common starting point – even worse, they’ll eventually stop asking for one.