Deliverables are NOT Objectives!

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by Paul Lohnes, MBA, PMP
Published in the Project Post-Gazette, Issue 2014-03,  Project Post-Gazette

This is a strange statement to make, no? However, be that as it may, the truth of the statement is inescapable – deliverables are NOT objectives as so many project managers (PM) and Business Analysts (BA) seem to think. Deliverables are the result of careful planning, properly campaigned objectives towards the goal of producing ‘fit-for-use’ (FFU) deliverables. Thinking of your deliverables as objectives is like thinking that your vacation is the objective instead of the goal of your time off. You can spend your time off in many different ways achieving different results, accomplishing various activities, but the deliverable of your time off, this time or thinking of it as your project, is the production of an enjoyable vacation to the Bahamas. Your objectives would be the series of major tasks or activities grouped into manageable modules that will produce the desired outcome.

So, the production of FFU deliverables is the desired outcome or goal of your project, the objectives are or is the campaign that you will design and implement in order to achieve the state of producing FFU deliverables. Confusing deliverables with objective places the focus of your attention on the wrong activities or tasks. Since there are literally hundreds of ways to achieve an enjoyable vacation to the Bahamas, your objectives must be bounded by your constraints such as content (scope), time, cost (budget), quality, and risk of non-completion. Sound familiar? Objectives are constrained, not the FFU deliverable since it is the achievement of an enjoyable vacation that as the project sponsor of your own project (your vacation), you decide the constraints and therefore the feasibility of the objectives that will provide you with the optimal vacation under those constraints.

So many PM and BA confuse the deliverables with the objectives and thus completely misunderstand or apply the constraints to the deliverables and not to the feasible solutions that are achieved through the executive of the project objectives. Once you know the deliverable(s), the constraints, you can determine/design your objectives that will produce the FFU deliverables or as we call it – feasible solutions. Think about it the next time someone begins to speak about goals, objectives, and solutions. The true relationship between these very often confused components of a project is this simple. Goals are the state of being that one desires to obtain after the application of resources (time, money, effort, space) and mental effort (planning, execution, and monitoring). The desired state of being for any project is the production of FFU deliverables as defined by the project sponsor. Objectives are those activities that will bring about this desired state of being under the limitations (constraints) imposed by the project sponsor. Get it?

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3 responses to “Deliverables are NOT Objectives!

  1. So, would you say, in this construct, the deliverables are basically artifacts (though pre-declared) of achieving the objective(s)? Artifacts or maybe evidence?

    • Stuart, deliverables are not artifacts either in the truest sense of the word.

      Deliverables are the reason for a project’s existence while an artifact is merely a result of some project action: report, document, status, etc. Deliverables are the purpose that any sponsor is willing to provide funding for a group of professionals to undertake a set of activities that will provide the outcome that resolves the original dissatisfaction with his/her status quo (the project sponsor’s). If a sponsor does not receive the outcomes that are able to resolve their dissatisfaction (and there are many categories of dissatisfactions not just IT or construction) then by any means or measurement, the project is a failure. That is the basis for Deliverables-Centered Project Management.

      Hope I clarified the concept for you. If not, please send in your additional questions to: comments@projectgazette.com and I will be happy to respond further on the matter.

      Take care, and thank your interest and readership.
      Paul Lohnes
      Editor-In-Chief, PPG
      Alexandria, VA

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