How to Define a Project

How to structure a project commitment when the requirements are vague and incomplete.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #65

Lastly, resources are the people, money, and equipment you’ll need to complete the project. Again, you get no points for being vague. “The leg warmer project will require six knitters, three skeins of dyed yarn, a $60,000 budget for Get-it-Done consultants who will call in remotely from a tropical island featuring fruit-flavored beverages. And, of course, a smoothie machine for the tropical island.”

The right project definition might land you on the moon.

An excellent example of a high-level project plan is President Kennedy’s statement that launched the moon program: By the end of the decade, we will put a man on the moon and bring him back safely. In one sentence, we know the deliverable (man on moon), the quality level (bring him back safely), and the timing (end of the decade). All he needed was a budget. The Apollo project succeeded, letting astronauts like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Pete Conrad walk on the moon and return home, only to track moon dust all over their freshly vacuumed carpets (and to think that I just taught you how to keep those clean).

Your project plan should give more detail, but only the detail you can commit to. Remember, for a moon launch, phase one is to study the problem and produce a project plan. That project plan doesn’t have to be for the entire rest of the program; it can plan phase two, which takes the next few steps and then has a planning phase for phase three. And so on.

The West Wind is blowing and my plan now is to get food. Specifically, a Subway veggie patty on flatbread, with all the veggies, banana peppers, and oil and vinegar dressing. Yum! I’m planning to spend under ten dollars and have it fully eaten thirty minutes from now. Once my tummy is full, I’ll figure out what’s next.

This is Stever Robbins. Email questions to getitdone@quickanddirtytips.com or leave voicemail at 866-WRK-LESS.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!


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About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.