Project deliverables. If you think that sounds like an overly complicated name for something, you’re right! It is. The name may be complicated but what the term “project deliverables” describes is everyday things. They are anything a project intends to produce. It most definitely includes the end results but also the items that need to be produced along the way to make the end result a success.

Knowing the project deliverables up front helps make sure all the tasks to produce the deliverables are identified up front too. There is nothing worse than starting work on a project and finding out something is missing from what you are expected to produce.

Since project deliverables and project management can include everyday items let’s look at a common adventure: you and your friends are going on a vacation together. When the idea came up all of you decided:

  • The location will be the Bahamas
  • The vacation will last five days during the second week of May
  • You’ll participate in outdoor activities
  • You’ll rent a condominium
  • You’ll dine both in and out

You ended up drawing the short straw so it’s your responsibility to put the vacation together.

You say to yourself, “No problem, this will be a snap to put together.” You have 6 months before the vacation begins so the next week you sit down and start to create a list of things to pull it all together: book flights, choose the condo, then just show up and figure the rest out. Like you said, a snap.

Then you start getting emails from the others with questions and demands:

  • “Just to let you know I’m starting a gluten free diet”
  • “Can we fly United so I can use my free miles?”
  • “I only drink red wine and want lots of it”
  • “My dermatologist says I need to keep my time in the direct sun to a minimum”
  • “Do we need a passport for the Bahamas?”
  • “Make sure we have an activity the gets us out of our comfort zone”

Now you begin to think, “What did I get myself into? The vacation will be a mess if I don’t plan this properly. I have a real project on my hands and need to start with the end in mind – project deliverables. You make a list of them:

End result: Five day vacation in the Bahamas

Interim deliverables:

  • Budget limit for vacation
  • Activities options with feedback
  • Meal options with feedback
  • Itinerary for meals, activities, and travel days
  • A list of things to bring
  • Travel day requirements
  • A shopping list of food and snacks to have at the condo

Now you can identify all the tasks that have to be completed to produce the deliverables. Even though your list of tasks has grown significantly, you are much more confident the vacation will be a success.

Next time you’re asked to work on a project, remember start with the end in mind and identify your project deliverables up front.