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How to Organize a Project
By Glen D. Ford

As a project management consultant, every once in a while, I’m asked a question that is elegant in its simplicity. At least as a question. Inevitably, the answer to these simple questions is as complex as they come. I was asked such a question this week.

How do you organize a project?

Needless to say, I was stumped by the possibilities of such a question. I could answer it in so many different ways. It all depends on what is actually meant by the question. Now in the case, of the individual who actually asked the question, they were interested in the project documents. But for this article, I’m going to discuss the issue at a much higher level.

So for this article, I’m going to focus on how to organize a project from the point of view of a sponsor who is responsible for the project. I’ll show you a six-step process for organizing the project. And yes, I did say the project sponsor is responsible.

The first step of the process begins by reviewing the request for the project. This can be in the form of a project portfolio document if you are formal with your project management. Or it could be a project justification document if you are less formal. Or it could be a simple project request if you are even less formal.

Whatever the project documents you are reviewing, this review is for the purposes of gathering information for the next steps of the process. However, during this review you should also be gathering information on the size, return on investment and the reason for the project.

The second step will be to create a preliminary list of stakeholders. These are the people who will be affected by the project. From this list, you need to identify three groups:

  1. Those who need to participate
  2. Those who need to provide information
  3. Those who are affected

The next step will be to examine the list of those who need to participate and those who need to provide information. This examination will help you to identify who should be on the project team. Typically, you will need people with some authority. Although in some cases, you may find that you can assign a better person simply by providing them with the ability to manage their own time.

The fourth step again involves examining the list of stakeholders. This time however, you also need to take into account the members of the project team. This will help you to identify the level and skills required by the project manager. Ultimately, it will allow you to select the appropriate project manager.

The fifth step involves meeting with the project manager to explain the project and the limits of his or her authority. During this step, you should obtain the project manager’s opinion of the project team. Following this, you should arrange the assignment of your project team to the project.

The sixth and final step involves meeting with the project team (and possibly those stakeholders who will be providing information). This is the so-called kickoff meeting. As sponsor, it is important that you show up at the kickoff meeting. While there, you will need to express support for the project and the project manager. You will also need to explain why the project is important to the organization.

Glen Ford is an accomplished project management consultant, trainer and writer. He has over 20 years experience as a project manager in such diverse projects as Construction, IT, Software Development, Marketing and Business Startup. He is a serial entrepreneur who quite literally learned to be an entrepreneur at his great-grandfather’s knee.

Check out his newest book available on Amazon at You can read more from Glen on his blog.

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