I mentioned in my last post that Motherhood Statements are one of my pet hates in business generally and especially in a project environment for clearly stating project management objectives and other key targets and strategies.
If you look up the term in Wiktionary, you’ll see the definition as “a feel good platitude, usually by a politician, about a worthy concept that few people would disagree with, but without any specified plans for realisation.
A simple example of a motherhood statement we would have all heard in a version of in projects and proposal documents is, “To be delivered to the highest quality standards, whilst providing mutually beneficial outcomes to all parties”, it might just pass the BS test in a Mission Statement but does not cut it at the project level and as a project management objective.
Whilst Part Time Politician is certainly in a Project Manager’s role description, so is Realist and for me, motherhood statements kill good project and proposal management and when I’m reviewing any bid or project document my motherhood statement radar detector is on full power and many red pens have died for the cause.
I see them mainly in executive summaries, meeting minutes, project management plans and risk mitigation strategies, they are as the definition implies statements that have neither an actionable strategy for execution, nor any way of measuring achievement, let me give you some examples of my favorites;
- Ongoing – As a statement of progress in meeting minutes or progress reports against a task or activity, my blood boils when I see it. We need to know, is it on schedule, not on schedule, % complete or when is it going to finish?
- XYZ Company will provide better quality than our competitors - In proposal documents, measured how and by whom? You need to state what quality measure will be achieved and how this, if at all, is a benefit to your prospective client.
- Monitor schedule more closely – as a risk control strategy, what with, a magnifying glass? There needs to be an actionable plan put in place to achieve the schedule improvements or whatever the strategy to control the risk is.
- Negotiate better outcome with sub-contrator/vendor – another risk control strategy, we need to know how it will be done, what result is required and by when.
Do you recognize some of these?
In Project environments we need to be crystal clear in our communications, we need to communicate where we are going, how we are going to get there and how that achievement will be measured.
One tip for ensuring your communications about intent, strategies and goals are not Motherhood, is to use a check like the SMART criteria. Ensure your statements are;
- Specific: A specific goal must have a clear objective.
- Measurable: Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each objective set.
- Achievable: The goal must be able to be delegated to an individual and that individual must have the capability/capacity/authority to achieve/action it.
- Realistic: To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work toward.
- Timely: A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency.
And when reporting progress, make sure you are actually relaying the status in a factual, relevant and measurable way.
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