Session 05: Drafting Instructions

Session 04: Designing the Presentation
Session 06: Drafting the Terms

Hi! Welcome to the this session of the PM Standards project where I’m creating a repository of project management standards for Cryptiquest. In the previous session I designed a solution for the repository. In this session I will draft the instruction portion of the repository (there are three portions: terms, instructions, and templates with a potential fourth portion of theory). Let’s get started.

The instructions (written with me as the target audience) will guide me through project phases. Here is an outline of that list:

Phases and Life Cycle

  • Need, Scope, and Your Compass Statements
  • Research and Analysis
  • Production
  • Review
  • Launch
  • Retrospective

I’ll flesh this out into a more detailed outline:

  • Phase 1: Plan
    1. Identify Your Project’s Need(s)
    2. Imagine the “Ideal” Solution
    3. Scope Out Limitations and Unknowns
    4. Establish Goal
    5. Generate Objectives
    6. Determine Deliverables
  • Phase 2: Production
    1. First Draft
    2. Internal Review and Edits
  • Phase 3: Review
    1. Conduct Need-Analysis
    2. Prepare for External Review
    3. Confidant Review
    4. Second Tier Review (Forum)
  • Phase 4: Implementation
    1. Finalize drafts
    2. Publish
  • Phase 5: Launch
    1. Conduct market analysis
    2. Create marketing materials
    3. Spread to target markets
  • Phase 6: Retrospective
    1. Review Sessions
    2. Identify Issues
    3. Address Issues
    4. Establish Action Items
  • Optional Phases/Steps as Needed
    • Research
    • Analysis

During the planning phase for this project, one thing I did not explicitly decree was that I am not going to improve the project planning process at this point. The goal is to take the current process and provide instructions for that. Upgrades to the system can be done as needed after subsequent projects. Despite this, I have moved the research phase from the sequence and created an “Optional” phase section for this.

Now I guess I’ll tackle each phase and create instructions. I think these instructions will be short, with limited theory.

Phase 1: Plan

By then end of this phase you should have an understanding of what you are creating, why you are creating it, and how you are creating it.

Note: It is possible that this phase will require a sub-phase dedicated to research.

Step 1: What needs are you looking to solve?

Consider what brought you to this project. What is compelling you to create this? What problems are you hoping to solve or outcomes do you hope to gain?

Step 2: If money and the laws of physics were no option what would the ideal solution look like?

This exercise may help you either better visualize the goal or help remove a preconceived idea out of your head. The ideal solution painted here is only part of the brainstorming process and should not serve as a commitment.

Step 3: In what ways are either the scope of the project limited or the pathway to clarity blocked by unknowns? What are the limitations and unknowns of the project?

Like most steps, this one is vital since it helps determine if research is required as well as teasing out potential objectives. Take some time with this one and explore the shape of the project. If necessary, conduct all research before moving on to remove unknowns and gain clarity of the goal and objectives.

Step 4: Based on the needs and research conducted so far, how would you define the goal of the project in one clause?

The goal typically defines the nature of the product while including the need (e.g. “To create a short story that will serve as the background setting for the CQ StoryHammer Game System“).

Step 5: Based on the limitations and the Cryptiquest vision, what are the objectives for this project?

{Note: I’ve spent so much time developing Cryptiquest objectives, it’s uncanny how I completely forgot to consult them for this project. Ha.}

The objectives serve as a litmus test to determine whether the project was successful or not. They exist to help you finish the project while meeting criteria that are important to you. The objectives need to be listed in a way that are measurable and neutral.

Consider the example objective: “The story is entertaining.” This is not objectively measurable. How do you determine if a story is entertaining? A better way to write this could be: “When surveyed, all reviewers report that the story is entertaining.” Now you have a unit to measure – reviewer surveys.

Step 6: With the research and scope complete, what are the steps to complete this project? What are the deliverables?

The deliverables are presented in an outline format with the phase as the first level and the deliverables for each phase listed in the second level (and sub-deliverables in subsequent levels). Use latest deliverable outline template as a base for your deliverables (as they tend to repeat from project-to-project).

Phase 2: Production

Step 1: Create the first drafts of the product described in the goal.

The way this is handled will vary based on the type of project but ultimately the purpose is to draft the first version of the products.

Step 2: Conduct an internal review and make any edits.

Read through the first drafts in different ways marking edits each time:

  1. Silently read through it to yourself
  2. Read aloud to yourself
  3. Look over objectives and read again with them in mind

The purpose of this step is to weed out any simple mistakes that you can catch before sending it to reviewers.

Phase 3: Review

Step 1: Based on your draft, who is the target audience and how does the draft meet their need? What is the need-analysis?

Reviewers sometimes wonder how they are supposed to perceive the material. They will want to know what kind of audience they are reading for and what that audience is supposed to take away. The reviewers who want to know these things do so because they want to more effectively advise you. Because of this, now is a good time to take a moment and refresh who the ultimate target audience is and what about this project will appeal to them.

Step 2: Prepare the drafts for external review.

Prepare the drafts in the medium in which you are going to share them with the reviewers.

Step 3: Send the materials out for confidant review.

The first reviewers should be one or two confidants – people close to you who are unafraid to provide constructive criticism and understand, ultimately, what you are trying to do. Ask them if they would be willing to critique your work and give them the courtesy of letting them know how much reading is involved. Only upon their acceptance of the critique should you provide them with the work to avoid the risk of coming off as presumptuous.

Step 4: Make edits then send out for second-tier review.

Once you make the edits from your confidants, now it is time to send the latest draft to a new group of people. It’s good to have a larger pool to choose from as this group might not be as readily available and might not as well acquainted with what you are trying to do. Their critiques are just as valuable as from the confidants and their efforts should be equally appreciated. Again, be polite: ask them if they are willing to critique your work and wait for their affirmation before sending them the material.

Phase 4: Implementation

Step 1: After gathering all feedback, perform edits to finalize the drafts.

After the second round of critiques have been performed and the edits have been made, conduct at least one read-through to gauge the flow as sometimes edits from various sources can improve sections independent of each other.

Step 2: With a final version of the copy at hand, insert into the final medium and do a final review before you publish.

Publishing may mean different things depending on what you are working on. The main take away is that you implement your final draft into the presentation medium then perform a final read-through before you publish that medium (making any desired edits you deem fit).

Phase 5: Launch

Step 1: Revisit your need-analysis and compare it to the implemented product. Answer the question: what market need does this product fulfill?

The need-analysis was created back in Phase 3: Review. Now that the product is in a release-state, it is time to revisit the need-analysis, see if the product still meets that need. If it does then this is now your market need and continue forward otherwise assess what market need the product does meet then move forward.

Step 2: With the market need in hand, create marketing materials to present your solution to the target audience.

Once you have a product and a market need that matches, draft social media posts and/or advertisements that propose the need and present the solution. “Craving a sci-fi adventure with the spirit of Saturday morning cartoons of old? Check out ‘Involution: Fletcher’s Squad’.”

Step 3: Once the materials are prepared, launch to market.

Phase 6: Retrospective

Step 1: Once the project has been announced, it is time to review the life of the project.

Revisit your project notes from start to finish. Review the objectives to measure how successful the project resulted. Summarize each session, noting what went wrong and what went especially well. Try to be as objective as possible about the events of the project.

Step 2: Group all the items about what went wrong as a list of issues.

Create a numbered list and record the issues that happened during the project. Just create the list, do not try to justify or solve the issues at this point. That will happen in the next step.

Step 3: For each item in the list of issues, spend some to to analyze why the issue happened. Write down these analyses in a list of issues addressed.

The analysis for each issue may be as short as a bullet item or as long as several paragraphs. The important thing is that you spend as much time as needed to discover the crux.

Step 4: With the issues addressed, record action items to take to mitigate these issues from happening again in the future.

Write a numbered list of action items. These may be as big as “Initiate a new project for quality standards” or as small as “Add a Second Tier Review step to the project management guide”. Once you finish this, your retrospective is complete and you should work on those action items before moving on.

Notes About Research

Sometimes you need to conduct research before making decisions in your project. Judging when to pause and insert a research step is crucial to the success of these projects. The research step consists of identifying what answer you are trying to discover, investigating leads to track down the answers and analyzing those answers.

Optional Step: Project Analysis

Sometimes a project is not going as planned or more likely it’s going as planned but the plan isn’t working out. If you ever feel like things aren’t working out but you can’t place why they aren’t working out then it is a good idea to stop and take a moment to write down what is going on. Assess what is happening, why it’s not working out, and formulate a path forward. Maintaining a failing course just because it was planned that way is no good. Give yourself permission to fail, identify options, adjust course and move on. You and your project will thrive for doing so.

That’s the first draft for the instructions. I added a lot more theory than I expected. In the next session I will compare this to the design spec and objectives to see what I’m missing. I have a feeling that what I’ve created here revealed a flaw in the original plan – specifically in how things were sorted to be within and outside the scope of the project.

We’ll find out in the next session! See you there.

Action Items


Session 04: Designing the Presentation
Session 06: Drafting the Terms