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Successful PROJECTs


A project's success is not determined by the methodology used.

It does not matter if you use waterfall or agile or any other approach. It also is not important if you have a project management certification. PMP is a monster and very far from easy to use. You can see that I am not a fan.

It is much simpler to make your project a success. This is specifically true for your personal projects but applies in the same way to business projects.

You need to:

  • Set a SMART Goal and stick to that. Otherwise you will be chasing your tail.

  • Want to do the project - you have to lose weight but you actually do not want to... Then this will be tough! Make sure you want the goal of the project.

  • Make the Time - it does not have to be hours every day but make sure you find enough time regularly to work on your project. Start small, e.g. 15-20 minutes every day go a long way.

  • Find the right Experts - so on top of doing the project you need to figure out how to do it. The experts will help to plan the whole project and time it right. But find the right expert, not the one that sells himself well.

  • Set up the Accountability - This is key for your personal project. Only if there is something that holds you accountable, you will pull through all the low phases. In school it is the teacher and at work your boss (if you respect them).
    For your project what or who will hold you and your team accountable? Who do you not want to disappoint? Find that person!


  • Fans & Friends - It is good to have a support basis that cheers you on when doing your project. At work this might be your boss or someone from the board supporting your projects. For your private projects this could be someone in your family or some of your friend.
    Friends sounds trivial but it is key for your mental well-being. You do not want to go with your self doubts to your fans. That is why you have friends: to let down, to reset and recharge.


  • Setup the Environment. This includes the physical environment as much as the communication and alignment of all your key stakeholders. If you want to lose weight and your whole family always eats fried food, then you need to agree that at least you will eat differently for the foreseeable future but it would be better if everyone would eat healthy food.

  • Execute fast and agile - Don't overthink. If something does not work, check if it is a matter of perseverance or changing course.

In essence that is it. You can skip the rest and get started. If you want to read more.

The PROJECT Basics

The Average Project

Your average project is not the next google or a space ship. It will be much smaller. You and your team are getting something done. This can be a new ad campaign, a product launch or some new features in a customer interface.

Or it is you trying to lose weight, renovate the house, learn something new or setup a side hustle.

Most of these projects are small. They do not need a 1000 page project management manual to get them done.

Just for reference the Wikipedia Project Definition:

Contemporary business and science treat a project as any undertaking, carried out individually or collaboratively and possibly involving research or design that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim.



One Person Teams - there is no one person team!

Why do I need a team you might ask or 'what team' if I try to lose weight? You might not have a team all the time with you but you better make sure you have the minimum team listed above.

  • An expert, in this case a food & fitness coach,

  • Someone who holds you accountable,

  • Get a fan who cheers you on and

  • make sure you have friends around. 

You can manage without them but it will be so much harder.

Standard Project Structure (covers agile and waterfall)

A normal project will always run through the same key phases:


  • Project Preparation

  • In multiple sprints

    • Sprint Planning

    • Sprint Execution

    • Sprint Review & Retrospective

    • Release

    • Benefits Realization

Let's run through the main phases of a project, the key activities & deliverables and most important of all the key success factors.

Project Phases 2.png

What is a sprint?


We use the term sprint from agile approaches quite a bit.


So here a basic definition: A sprint is a short fixed time period, e.g. 2-3 weeks within which a team aims to complete a set of tasks that the team has agreed on. 

The main advantage of sprints is that you can start quickly. You only plan the tasks for 2-3 weeks. Then you can review how you have have been doing and quickly adjust in case things are not working out.

Pitfalls of agile and pseudo agile

When using agile approaches you usually do not specify a fixed goal for a certain date. If you do that then you are pretending to be agile but using standard waterfall method in a pseudo agile manner.


Agile is usually very customer driven. The danger is as you focus in each sprint on the - from your perspective - most urgent topics you might lose sight of the bigger picture or main goal.


Agile allows you to add an extra 2 sprints to create that prototype but be wary of not digressing, stalling or procrastinating.  



Specify clearly your SMART goal. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Then prepare a first basic plan of the actual project.


This might contradict agile principles but it is good to form an idea by when you plan to achieve certain key milestones, e.g. lose 10 kg, have a first MVP. It will help you to focus and prioritize during your sprints. 


Ensure you have setup all that you need and validate that you have the time and budget. All that you need is a wide range. Often you just need a laptop or you might need some weights for specific weight training etc.

Don't buy things you need far ahead in the future and you can get later, only what is needed now.

You will also need to secure your team and ensure right communications.

Time is critical. Do you have the time for this project? If you do not, can you make the time?


SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound

Key Activities & Deliverables

  • Define your SMART goal and scope.

  • Secure the right experts.

  • Assess best way to achieve your goal and define best way to get there.

  • Prepare a project or rather key milestone plan. 

  • Plan time, resources & money needed.

  • Plan your detailed activities you want to achieve specifically in the next sprint.

  • Secure your project team. 


Ensure to hire the right experts.

Key Success Factors

Once your plan and team are ready, review the following:

  • Have you planned and started your change & communication management. Is your environment aligned with what you are planning to do.

  • Your project does not clash with other major activities or projects.

  • You have the accountability setup sorted out. This is key to ensure you feel accountable and get it done. 

  • You have defined reporting & tracking.

  • How will you test that it works? How do you define success?

  • How will you measure the benefits?


PLANNING, EXECUTION, Review & Retrospective

Using sprints you will design and implement your project in incremental pieces. From a high-level conceptual design, you will break it down into smaller manageable parts and execute them.

Often people get stuck in the thinking that they need to have the whole solution but most projects can be broken down into small manageable chunks. 

You will not get it right the first time. There will be several iterations to make the solution fit the goal. Often concepts of lean startup models, customer development or rapid prototyping are applied to verify the solution fit early.

Imagine you want to offer a new service on the internet. First get a few people to sign-up before you even start any technical work. Or you want to lose weight. Cut the sugar & sweets from your diet and see if that works.

​Key Activities & Deliverables

  • Define high-level conceptual design to understand how the different parts of your final solution will work together.

  • Verify if you can test your solution, e.g.: 

    • Talk to a potential customer about your idea and see if they would commit to buy it.

    • Try out your solution, e.g. a new diet for a few days and see what happens.

  • Detail design of the critical components combined with early validation approach. 

  • Regular checkpoints to validate the fitness of your solution or get customer feedback as early as possible and very regularly.

  • This will also give you an outlook on the potential benefits, you can achieve.

  • Review consistently with your accountability coach / board your reporting & tracking to ensure you are progressing well. 

  • Go back to detailed or even conceptual design if solution is not working.


Early Customer Validation.

Key Success Factors

  • Be consistent and diligent in your tracking and reporting. Leverage the ‘Steering Committee’ (accountability coach) and experts to keep you on course.

  • Ensure extensive communication within the team and all other important stakeholders / people impacted by your project. People do not like change so best is to make them part of it and integrate them in the process. 

  • Focus on customer development. What does the customer really need? No matter if the customer is you!


Customer Development

Sprint Release

As part of your sprints you work on the small incremental parts of your project - always keeping the customer in mind.

At some point you release these incremental parts to your broader audience, customer base or for your own use.


A classic example is the like button from facebook. Tested with some small customer base it is then made available to a wider customer group.

The same when you start a new fitness program. You stop the old one and switch to the new one.

So in general you stop some old or interim processes and prepare everyone for the new. Communication and precise alignment of all action and the players involved is key in this phase. 

You don't want to negatively impact anyone. So you should plan to communicate this change well. So everyone can prepare.

You also prepare for any sort of hypercare and fallback scenario. Hypercare is the initial face of intense close attention to your customers during transition.

Fallback is what hopefully will not happen. It means that you revert back to the previous solution of if that is not possible to some sort of workaround until you have fixed the new solution.

Key Activities & Deliverables 

  • Make sure that you have a clear plan how to transition from the existing to your new solution.

  • Create a communication plan to ensure the right awareness of everyone involved and affected.

  • Prepare hypercare team and ramp-up plan.

  • Align your plan with all action parties and inform all stakeholders.

  • Define KPIs to track to see if you are performing right.


Aligned Cutover Plan & Ramp-up KPIs.

Key Success Factors

The timely execution is essential. You do not want customer waiting for their product or switch off an old system and not having the new one prepared. 


Timely Execution.

Hypercare & OPERATIONS

In big business or IT project you might need specific support teams that can quickly turnaround any issues that are causing a big business impact. This is called Hypercare.


Eventually you will wind down Hypercare and handover the project to the standard operations organization.

The same you do with your own projects you transfer the project result to your standard operations, i.e. you eat the healthy stuff and do not buy the rubbish anymore. Or you start using that new bath room and take care of it like you did with the old one. Only the new one you like more.

In most cases there is no separate team taking care of the operations. It is the same team that continues developing the solution. 


Also in a lot of companies this approach is used. It is called DevOps and means that the same team covers the further development of a product and any operations issues that are coming up.

Key Activities & Deliverables 

  • Support teams ready to take on any critical issues.

  • Operations team takes over.

  • Track against your KPIs to see if you are staying on course.

Key Success Factors

  • Well-trained and available hypercare team.

  • Good ramp-up plan that slowly increases the usage of new solution and stabilizes it.

  • Act if KPIs are differing from plan.



Benefits Realization

When you started your project, you were planning to achieve something. Once you have stabilized your operations you want to see that you achieve the longer-term goals that you were projecting. 

You need to monitor this progress and act if you are not achieving your targets.

You should also set up some sort of longer-term steering committee that will monitor and advise you on your performance and benefits realization.


And that is it. You might think, is that all? And for a project to succeed in terms of approach this is all. 

But the approach is the simple part. Like driving a car. Push the clutch, put in a gear, let the clutch go and accelerate. Sounds easy but very difficult when really doing it.

It is the same with projects. The theory is quite easy but you need to execute it right. That is were the right team comes into play. Having the right team will increase your chances of succeeding manifold.

The right team does not only cover any knowledge gaps it also makes sure you stay on course and persevere through the tough times. 

Good luck, just get started!

Your Superteams


Timely Execution.

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