For any project, there must first be a shared understanding of the project’s purpose, scope, schedule, and budget. This needs to be clear and succinct and you will use it to explain the project over and over again from beginning to end. It may take the form of a single page project summary – a “one-sheet” – or it could be expanded to become the first few slides of every slide presentation you will do for the duration of the project. It pays to get this narrative right – or at least very close – early on and then to tweak and improve it constantly along the way to reflect new information, changing conditions, and ongoing feedback from all of the stakeholders. Still, at the end, those first few slides should not be very different from those you showed at the very beginning of the project.
What are you trying to accomplish with the project? This is basically a “mission statement,” in the form of a short paragraph or a handful of bullets, perhaps based on a one or two-page list of principles, but not much more. The goal is to arrive at a short version that, with repetition, becomes a brief elevator speech that everyone on the team can remember at any time when someone says, “what is the project about, anyway, and why are you doing it?”
What is the nature of the project? How big is the site? What work is actually involved? What will it be when it is finished? Are you building an all-new facility or renovating an existing one? Is it a new project, a renovation, an adaptive reuse, a historic preservation project, or a greening project? What is the character of the project? Can you describe it in a few sentences?
How long will it take to complete? How long will it take to engage the stakeholders, complete design, obtain approvals, raise funds, bid, contract and construct, and when will it be open to the public for use?
How much will it cost and who will pay for it? How much will it cost to design, build, and furnish – the capital costs – and what is the anticipated operating budget once construction has been completed and it is open for public use? What are the potential risks and costs associated with owner and contractor driven “change orders,” unforeseen conditions, and other “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns?” How much of a cash surplus or “contingency” should you carry on top of the budget to cover unanticipated costs?