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Intro to ABCDE – Part 2


Most Projects fail at the very beginning

What does that really mean?

It doesn’t mean that the project itself failed in its first week.

It simply means that not setting it up with a clean and a clear purpose early on, will cause your project to fail.  Although you might not realise it until month three, it’s usually those early days jobs that you didn’t do that cause the failure.

That’s why we unashamedly bang on about the importance of starting with WHY.

Picture this:

An organisation or perhaps even a mate of yours has got a want, or a need or a problem to fix.

It’s quite natural for us to jump straight in and say, “Let me fix it for you.”

In the video that we’re about to see, Simon Sinek is going to tell you a bit more about what Why is, and why Why is important.

For those of you who haven’t heard of him, Simon Sinek is a bit of a leadership guru. This particular Ted Talk has had more than 40 million views. Let’s take a little look at what he has got to say:

The Why can be quite a challenging concept and thought provoking.

Simon’s key messages are that successful leaders and organisations don’t just work out ‘what is it that they do every day?’

For example:

What do I do all day? I sell computers because my computers are great.

Instead, we learned in the example of Apple, that their purpose is to develop competitive, innovative ways of working. That’s their Why. How do they do that? Well, they develop great computers that deliver that purpose. Because, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

In a project you need a ‘someone’ and you need a Why. That Why comes from your Sponsor. That’s your special someone, the person calling the shots.

Without their funding, their backing and support and having those wants and desires in the first place, you haven’t got a project.

The Sponsor is usually a leader or somebody with a bit of welly in the organisation. They’re the person that gives you the Why, which translates into your official order to go do/build the thing.

A little health warning here though folks.   From our experience of working with different leaders in many different organisations.

That Why isn’t always articulated in the way that Simon Sinek has just explained it to us. Sometimes you have to prise it out of your Sponsor with very carefully crafted questions.

For example – your Sponsor might say, “I want a better chicken pie making machine.” (I mean…who doesn’t?)

That sounds dead simple, right?

But to get to the Why you might need to ask the Sponsor some questions:

  • Why do you want a better chicken pie making machine?
  • How will it help?
  • What does better mean?
  • What problem will it solve?
  • When do you need it by?
  • How much money have you got?
  • What’s wrong with the old machine? What happens if you don’t get a better chicken pie making machine?
  • What will the world look like when you’ve got one?
  • Describe it for me, draw it for me, colour it in.

All of this will help you determine what’s important to the person holding the purse strings. What their deadlines, drivers and motives are. And importantly, what this thing needs to look like in terms of cost, time and quality (and outcomes).

The Triple triangle = Time, quality and cost

Imagine you’ve made the big decision that you’d like to build your own dream home from scratch.

In your head, you’ve got a clear idea of what that home needs to look like. But, good as your builders and architects are, they can’t read your mind.

You’ve got your why firmly sorted because you’ve had some great advice from Project Partners.

Why are you doing this? Well, you’re a bit of a country bumpkin at heart so here’s what you said:

“I’m doing this so that I can live quietly and privately without neighbours and pollution with views that inspire me and room for all of us.”

Sounds great right?

Our Dream Home

So you sit down early doors to explain this to your builder and your architect.

You agree the plans, you get planning permission and your builder makes a start.

The first 10 weeks have gone pretty well, although some unusually cold weather has slowed down the brick work and you are a few weeks behind; but not to worry.

Let’s continue with the building theme. The footings are dug, foundations in, the walls are starting to go up and the house is beginning to take shape.

But you start to get a bit impatient realising your dream.

So you say to the builder,

“Hey Bob, you’re doing a smashing job, any chance you can get it done a bit quicker, please? I’d like to be in by the summer.”

Bob has a think and says

“Well, I can employ an extra couple of people, but Max…your budget is set. You can’t afford another £15,000 for more people.”

Not to be beaten, Bob helpfully suggests that I set my sites a little bit lower. Maybe I focus on the house build for now, but I wait a bit longer for the patio and the outdoor landscaping and the M6 standard driveway.

This all comes back to decisions about time, quality and cost….read on to make sure you don’t “balls up your change.”

Where the magic happens

Don’t balls up your change…

What’s the message here then folks?

These three balls here: Good, Fast, Cost

You need a way of keeping all these balls up in the air and all three plates spinning.

How? With a bit of structure and a decent method and something that keeps it all together = the ABCDE way.

You can sometimes do it quicker, you could find more money, you could live with less.  This is all for your Sponsor to decide.


Armed with these decisions and a Why, you’ve got your mandate now and you are the project manager.

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