SEVEN KEY AREAS FOR STRATEGIC PROJECT DESIGN.

Project design should be informed by evidence, supported by analytical rigor, and consistent across organization missions.

As you design thinking for PROJECT take into consideration 7 knowledge areas to make an effective and adaptive design. The seven knowledge areas which form the word PROJECT as I introduced in my previous article

PROJECT design describes the relationship of designing projects to organization mission and strategic planning and monitoring and evaluation. Project Design is “A strategic organization of ideas, materials, and processes for the purpose of achieving a goal”.

Good project design helps to avoid consequences and provide parameters to maintain crucial aspects of the project like the schedule and the budget.

There are seven key areas to be considered during project design, whether using LFA or Project Design Matrix or during Concept Note development. You need to have some sort of a question list or a checklist as a guideline to ensure issues around seven key areas are captured.

Use the PROJECT framework to design your project strategically;

Planning; is very essential knowledge area in which any project designer must possess. In the world of limited resources i.e Financial, time and skilled human resources “Failure to plan is planning to fail” the design process must take into consideration issues such as contextual analysis, SWOT analysis, check the proposal guideline and other planning tools. Remember you act proactively, so begin with the end in mind, and try to put first thing first.

Due to limited resources, strategic planning knowledge will be highly needed. The project manager will set in place a strategy to ensure effective monitoring of the project implementation. Monitoring is a continuous assessment of programs based on early detailed information on the progress or delay of the ongoing assessed activities.

Resources; in project management, resources are required to carry out the project tasks. They can be people, equipment, facilities, funding, or anything else capable of definition (usually other than labor) required for the completion of project activity.

The lack of a resource will, therefore, be a constraint on the completion of the project activities. Due to poor design and too ambitious objectives, many organizations have failed to secure adequate resources henceforth failed to complete project activities.

During the design phase, the overall assessment of project resources availability is significantly important. The assessment will base on promising resource bases such as the availability of human resources, financial resources, and time to implement the project activities.

The need to establish a well-balanced project design to ensure resources are adequate and where possible to design long term strategy on resource mobilization.

Organizing; projects are naturally hectic. The primary business function of project management is organizing and planning projects to tame this chaos. A clear path mapped out from start to finish ensures the outcome meets the goals of your project. Since project design has many units, therefore is very important to have a project manager with knowledge and skills on how to enhance an effective organization.

To organize the project team, stakeholders and partners in a way that everyone feels appreciated and respected. If such skills and knowledge are missing it will be difficult for a project manager to organize project activities in areas where have political stress, social pressure, and inadequate resources.

Justification; in the project design and management, the concept, and the whole approach to the solution will be required to be justified or to provide a rationale as to why the solution presented is the best fit.

Justification answers the following sampled questions; SIMPLY; WHY IS YOUR PROJECT SOLUTION IMPORTANT?

· Why your project is necessary and what it will do?

· Which benefit will the project have?

· Which positive effects will it have?

· Which new chances could open up because of the project?

· Which problems will be solved by your project?

· How do these problems affect your community at the moment?

When presenting your justification focus on the solution and not your organization. The details about organization capacity will consume space unnecessarily. Mainstream your WHY and not the HOW. I recommend a book by Simon Sneak “Start with Why”.

The problem is always there and well understood, but innovative solutions are inadequate or not in place. Therefore when you focus on why, it inspires others to join and take action; for example the why may help to make donations, give grants or recommend your project.

Evaluation; in the project management cycle, evaluation of the project impact and monitoring of project activities framework design is highly encouraged. Monitoring and evaluation focusing on the management of indicators and data management during project cycle management.

An evaluation is an examination concerning the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and impact of activities in the light of specified objectives. Its goal is to improve current and future management of outputs, outcomes, and impact.

Closing; like many other things, have a start and an end, the same with the project.

Many practitioners overlook the project closing process group. To them, successful project delivery is defined by the completion of deliverables as per the objectives of time and cost. They consider project closing as overburden, work that is done to satisfy organizational requirements, and in many cases of little significance if any.

The stage or phase carries equal weight as the initiation stage. It is the time when stakeholders, participants, best practices and management team can be acknowledged.

According to A Guide To The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) — Fifth Edition, “The Project Closing Process Group consists of those processes performed to conclude all activities across all Project Management Process Groups to formally complete the project, phase, or contractual obligations. This process group, when completed, verifies that the defined processes are completed within all of the Process Groups to close the project of phase, as appropriate, and formally establishes that the project or project phase is complete” (2013, p. 57).

Time for exit; development cooperation projects aim to bring permanent and sustainable changes. This means the changes the project brings should not be left dependent on the external support once the project is over. Once you have an awareness that, at the end of the project would require to exit, then the sustainability plan will become a design thought.

I observed for so many years, many projects are designed without much focus on the exit strategy. Though the project manager and other project stakeholders are emphasizing much on the sustainability strategy, again seems like a political call and not technical recommendation. Even the financial aspect is not considered for an exit strategy. Some of the activity such as backstopping is thoughtful but not practically implemented.

I prepared this article based on my previous article on the “Four (4) quadrants of Project Management” in which I introduced a self-thought abbreviation to PROJECT. As I promised to give a highlight on the keywords under PROJECT this work and the other articles are my thoughts with the reference from online materials and books.

References;

· Handbook on Planning, Monitoring and Evaluating for Development Results UNDP (2009)

· Project Design Guidance by USAID (2011)

N.B; Hope you will find this article useful and helpful to your project design and management pathways. I invite you to write and exchange ideas to improve my series of articles on Business management, Project Design, and Management through my email; jeremiah.wandili@gmail.com

Don’t hesitate to comment here below. Recommend, share and invite your friends to read this article. Thank you.

| Community Development | BDSPM Consultant| YALI Alumni, Founder & Executive Director @woteinitiative Youth Leadership Advisory Board, Member #YLAB @DOTTanzania