The First Consensus Meeting

In the initial meetings, the product and component managers will meet with the sponsors and stakeholders to determine what their goals for the project are and what business processes will either be improved or created. This is the conceptualization stage. The meetings with the sponsors and stakeholders should not discuss how any of the goals will be achieved, only what the goals are and why they are important. Milestones, which represent the accomplishment of goals, should define measures of success.

The questions that should be answered by the end of this process are:

> What are the needs of the business?

> What are the business processes that fulfill these business needs?

> What business processes might exist in the future to meet the business needs?

> Why are these business processes important to the corporation?

> How can these business processes be improved?

> What are the good and bad aspects of the business processes?

> What are the goals of the senior management?

The sponsor should lead the first meeting and begin with an explanation of the meeting and how it will be run. Once this is done, everyone should introduce themselves and their roles in the project. Some means should be provided to record the meeting in a way that all of the people attending can see summaries of what has been discussed. Either use large white paper or some way to project the notes onto a screen visible to all the participants. The product manager should assist the sponsor in running the meeting, keeping things on track and moving along. Each meeting should not extend much beyond half a day.

The focus of this meeting is defining the project's goals and prioritizing the goals. Prioritizing goals is not as difficult as most people think. We will divide goals into three classifications of priority: high, medium and low. High priority goals are the ones that we must do for the project to be successful. If we cannot accomplish our high priority goals, there is no reason for doing the project. Medium level goals add value to the project and make the business process more efficient, but they do not have to be in the scope of the first few cycles of the project. Low priority goals usually are some unneeded feature someone would like to be added on, and usually are not included in the project. Low priority goals will add little to the efficiency of the business process.

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