6 June 2010

Making pointless statements

How is it that so many project documents contain so few actual points?  Take this line from a business case for example;
"We aim to improve customer satisfaction."
 Sure.  Of course we do.

I can't share the rest of the business case because of confidentiality and all that, but you should understand this blanket statement is made as a basis for justifying a project and it  isn't  elaborated in any meaningful way.

What we - the project team and key stakeholders - need to know is why customer satisfaction has been put on a pedestal above other motivations.  Why is it more important than profit or sales or organisational growth?  And do we really prioritize customer satisfaction above these other things or is this project one of many and this just happens to be the customer satisfaction arrow in the quiver?

Blanket statements frustrate me.  They assume a common understanding that is almost never actually in place. When you next write a phrase like the above, do me a favor and elaborate it with context and rationales.

Picture by Brainless Angel CC @ Flickr.


  1. Anonymous10:18 pm

    This is such a great post and I couldn't agree with you more.

  2. So many business cases (and project reports, PIDs et al) suffer from this. I think you are right that they assume a common understanding or else, they are filler because the author couldn't be bothered researching WHY this is important.

    When I have been an SRO I have 'red-penned' such statements with 'if this cannot be measured with success criteria, suggest you write nothing instead. It's shorter.'


  3. Sas

    Harsh? Maybe it's tough love.

  4. One of the life changing experiences for me was going to "proposal" school. This multi-week course teaches you how to write proposals in the defense and aerospace business.

    One core concept is...all statement must have unassailable beneficial outcomes to the buyer stated in units of measure meaningful to that buyer.

    If those outcomes are not present then you're just taking up space on the team, get off or get it right on the next review.

    The next step when executing the project to to measure progress ONLY in physical percent complete against the PLANNED Technical Performance Measures (TPM).

    Just finished a week at the College of Performance Management speaking to that topic...




  5. Excellent point that has been haunting me too for quite sime time now.

    I have found a way to recognize such statements - they all have one thing in common: these can be used to justify absolutely anything because no-one can argue with "improving customer satisfaction"

    My recent case with such statement - instead of getting the price quote for an old customer for relatively small thing out there and work done, I was required to write a "proper" offer document with 11 pages of nonsense while customer just wanted to know one number and work done and all of it for the sake of "raising quality of our services"...

    Therefore my recommendation in such cases - please ask for "instead of"-part of these sencentes, ie: "improve satisfaction instead of /something/".

    That way it all makes very much more sense.

    Thanks for the brilliant point.

  6. This was a really great read, appreciation for taking the time to put it together! Touched on some very good...