The Brief should be just that, brief.
Briefs are written in the Concept Phase of projects and change initiatives. As such, the aim is to clarify an existing or emerging idea or concept. Clarify it enough to understand if the idea seems to be a sound, good idea. Believe it or not, not all ideas are good ideas. Even those thought up by senior management.
The Concept Phase is essential in weeding out the bad ideas. The Project Brief is the tool to help.
However, there are a several tricky problems typically associated with the Concept Phase and the Brief. Be forewarned and be prepared for them!
- There is usually no or very little money to spend (someone somewhere is going to have to suck this up under some existing budget and the team involved are normally doing this on top of their day jobs), but none the less, it is vital. Any Project Manager who has ever listened to the directive (from their boss or other senior manager) to just âget on with itâ without spending the necessary time in this Phase will tell you exactly how vital it is.
- The (time and/or political) pressure is on. A senior manager is telling you about his/her idea and is utterly insulted that you want to make sure it is a good idea. The old âOf course itâs a good idea! Itâs my idea!â mentality. Which nine times out of ten (imho) equates to âpet project ideaâ and no real business benefits (just a feather in said senior managerâs cap that he/she can leverage for their next move up the company ladder, regardless of the true business impact in their wake).
- The approach in Definition Phase seems an awful lot like the approach taken in the Concept Phase, so canât we just skip Concept and jump straight to Definition? NO! You can combine them, if that truly, truly, truly meets the needs of what youâre doing, but skip? NO! One clarifies that the idea is a good idea. The other determines and establishes boundaries, strategies, plans, agreements, responsibilities and authority limits about the already determined âgoodâ idea. Oh, and confirming that it still is a good idea even with all this additional information.
- The balance of finding when brief is brief enough. On a small, simple, straight forward project, the Brief could be a verbal discussion (backed up by meeting minutes), but on a large, complex, lengthy, involved project, the Brief might be 50+ pages. The balance is hard to find, but needs to be driven by the needs of the project and the project stakeholders.
- Once agreed, (here comes more time and political pressureâ¦), (some) senior managers will want to use the Brief as a guarantee, wanting assurances that what was uncovered in the Concept Phase is what will be delivered. Even though completely annoying and often taken as a devious political plot to derail the project efforts, apparently, this is a normal and natural result of the âAnchoring cognitive biasâ. Make sure to address this tendency up front and keep it in the forefront of stakeholdersâ understandings and considerations when contemplating the project scope, requirements, estimates and solutions.
“AnchoringÂ or focalism is a cognitiveÂ biasÂ that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the “anchor”) when making decisions. During decision making,Â anchoringÂ occurs when individuals use an initial piece of information to make subsequent judgments.”Â
Itâs in the title â Project BRIEF. Keep it that way. And definitely do it. And do it to the needs of the project.
Defining in Definition
ScienceDaily. 2016.Â ScienceDaily. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/anchoring.htm.[Accessed 10 November 2016].