How would you answer the following question from the project sponsor:

“How do I know the project is done?”

This is a very interesting question as what the project sponsor is really asking is:

“Have the required project outcomes been delivered?”

Project manager thinking if project is completeThe answer is important as the sponsor has typically committed valuable resources (budget, people and time) to achieve a result. Therefore, the sponsor is fully in their right to expect a positive response.

Take a moment to think about your current project or programme and, if this question fills your with fear, panic or simply makes you feel uneasy, the following 4 principles can help.

1.Clear scope and outcomes

While this may sound obvious, there are many active projects that do not have clearly defined scope. Even more do not have a clearly defined outcomes.

Understanding both is critical for the project manager. Without knowing the scope and the required outcome, how can the project manager define and direct the work to achieve the required result? Answer: they cannot.

So by not having this clear understanding, the project manager is putting them self at a disadvantage before they have really started. Not the way I would choose to start a project.

At the start of any piece of work, make sure you take time to capture the scope and required outcomes. Keep asking questions until you and the team are clear as it is far better to remove ambiguities at the start.

2. Document scope and outcomes

If you have completed step1, good work. Now you must document the scope and deliverables in a clear and concise format that can be understood by all stakeholders. Remember, it is easy for misinterpretation of the written word. Therefore, ask for peer reviews to ensure that the document is clear.

Ideally the outcomes will describe each important deliverable and the metrics that will be used to measure if they are complete. Agreeing these at the start of the project is far easier than waiting until the end of the project.

3. Agree scope and outcomes

It is important not to assume that just because you have created a document that the sponsor has read and understand the detail. Therefore, it is advisable to set up a review session with the sponsor and any other stakeholder to walk them through the key points on scope and outcomes. Taking this step will help ensure a common understanding and will allow misunderstandings to be resolved. Make sure that the document is updated to reflect any changes.

At the end of the session, ensure that all parties formally acknowledge and agree the scope and outcomes. This signed off document will then act as the baseline for the project manager to deliver the work. It also means that the project manager has got a reference to validate the deliverables as they are completed.

4. Track progress

Having spent time agreeing the outcomes (deliverables), it is important to track progress. Regular reporting will assist. However, to ensure a robust process, outcomes should be translated into milestones and a deliverable log should be created.

This will allow for progress against each deliverable to be tracked and will highlight where deliverables are late or missed. There can even be an independent process to assure each deliverable and a standard method for storage. This ensures that all the deliverables can be found at the end of the project.

For details on the data points and fields you should include in a Deliverable Tracker, visit the post, Project Deliverable Tracker (the fields you need).


The purpose of a project is to achieve an outcome. Scope will help define the outcome and ensuring that the scope and outcomes are clear, documented, agreed and tracked will help ensure that they are achieved.