Conceptually speaking, a project is just a set of deliverables. From this
insight, I was able to develop the
Essence of Project Management:
WHO | DELIVERS WHAT | BY WHEN | TO WHOM | STATUS | QUALITY | COMMENT
The beauty about this essential sentence is, that it does not matter if we are
talking about a huge project with hundreds of thousands of deliverables or just
a small project with a few deliverables. The essence always remains the same.
The second insight is that each deliverable can again be a set of underlying
deliverables. If you combine these two thoughts you recognize that a project
sheet as it is suggested here is recursive.
This is quite an innovative and far-reaching thought for project controlling.
Independent on which hierarchical level you view a project you can always use
the same template layout because the underlying basis of the Essence of
Project Management always remains the same.
So, if you start from the bottom of a project you can just cluster some of these
individual activities and aggregate them up into an overall deliverables. These
aggregated deliverables can then again be aggregated and so on until you reach
the final and top aggregation. This final aggregation, obviously, represents the
whole project. Its deliverable is the project result as such.
If you start from the top, you can drill into every deliverable to see what is
underneath until you reach deliverables that do not have further
Considering projects in this way offers a lot of transparency. It is immediately
clear, how information is aggregated up. The ratios at the top result directly
from the underlying information. The status for each aggregated deliverable is
just the aggregated status of its underlying sub-deliverables.
Thinking about projects in this manner also offers additionally a large
advantage for organizing people in a project. Each deliverable has one and only
one owner who is responsible for this deliverable. How he or she, however, is
producing the deliverable is perfectly up to the owner.
It does not matter if the owner is
- a superior to a team of subordinates,
- the product owner in an agile team, or
- the customer of a service provider who orders the deliverable from the
Thinking about projects along this way allows all organizational forms to
cooperate. Organizing information in a hierarchical way generates the structure
that gives people the freedom to organize themselves in the most efficient way —
and this may not be hierarchical but agile or otherwise.