Topic 3.2: Opportunity definition

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If I had only one hour to solve a problem, I would spend up to two-thirds of that hour in attempting to define what the problem is.

Unverified quote, popularly attributed to Albert Einstein

So, you have a great idea – how do you effectively communicate it to others, ideally to the point they might be willing to invest in it?

The first step in bringing a project to life is to make our idea a solution to their problem.

Most organisations will have published somewhere a great list of unsolved problems; although they might call this list their strategic objectives or goals.

These unsolved problems are more often than not found in an organisation’s strategic plan or on the “About Us” page on their website.

But even if these goals are not published, you can often deduce them from the nature of the organisation and the business it is in.

Goals as unsolved problems?

Well, yes – each goal is a statement by the organisation of what they want to achieve; however, it is (on its own) usually silent about how it will be achieved.

Every project an individual or organisation undertakes is therefore intended in some way to support or satisfy their objectives; whether they be personal objectives (such as more free time), commercial objectives (such as greater profit), or community objectives (such as more liveable cities).

Therefore it is absolutely critical to its success that your project be understood as a means of realising these objectives, and not an end in itself.

For that reason, we link the project’s outputs and outcomes to the objectives of the sponsoring organisation, right from day one.

The relationship between projects and operations

A project concept canvas is a simple, visual and effective way to define project opportunities.

The purpose of the concept canvas is to provide organisations with a low-cost, standardised way of comparing opportunities.

Stakeholders who identify opportunities are encouraged to put them forward for consideration using the listed fields on what is usually a one-page document.

Organisations use the concept canvas to make efficient and effective priority decisions about:

  • which opportunities to advance to more detailed (read: expensive) analysis
  • which opportunities need to go back for more conceptual development, and
  • which opportunities to drop (before any more time and money is invested in them).
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