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  • Open-ended projects

    I was always taught that project is something that has a defined endpoint (eg refurbish kitchen). However, it seems to me that some things which are not strictly projects, in that they don't have defined endpoints, might also be complex multi-step things, and would fit well into the "projects" category in a GTD system. An example might be "increase our sales".

    Am I missing something, or is "projects" defined quite broadly in GTD such that open-ended projects could fit into the system just as well as conventional projects that have an end point?

  • #2
    Generally speaking a project is a definable outcome that can be achieved within 9-12 months or less. "Increase sales of "x" 25% by end of 2012" is more of a 30,000 ft goal than a project. Notice how the result I'm defining here is measurable; it's not just "increase sales".

    Anything that represents more of an ideal long-term vision of your world than a definable outcome falls into the higher "Horizons of Focus". The successful completion of the right projects might allow you and your organization to achieve this goal but you have to choose the right ones.

    "Finalize a new ad campaign" might be a logical project in the pursuit of a goal to improve sales. "Set up exercise program" might be a project in the pursuit of a goal to improve health and vitality.

    "Call Fred to discuss ad campaign" is a simple atomic action that you can take towards getting closure on the new ad campaign. "Look up local fitness centers" (in phone book or online) is a simple atomic action you can take towards getting started on a fitness program.

    Does this make sense to you?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by AdamJacobs View Post
      increase our sales
      That sounds more like the 50k purpose description of a marketing/sales department. What is the task, the raison d'€tre of the department? --> to increase our sales.

      So, in a GTD system this tidbit would be in the 'purpose' field of several projects. In the book there is that chapter about project planning, how every project has a purpose and a sucessful outcome and so on.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
        That sounds more like the 50k purpose description of a marketing/sales department. What is the task, the raison d'€tre of the department? --> to increase our sales.
        50k purpose for department, 20k area of responsibility for person. Anyway, it is not project, it creates projects. (IMO)

        I think there is no such thing as open ended project, for me one definition of a project is that there has to be contition when project can be checked as completed. I think this thinking comes from fact I studied 6 years in university of applied sciences where all learning was based on real customer projects. And I learned it is very rewarding to be able to end a project. Most stressfull projects where those which end condition was not clear. Anyway, you all, feel free to have different opinions and tell me/us about them.

        If I remember correctly in one audiobook (making it all work?) David said (this is not a direct quote, but a bit exaggerated generalisation) that 10k projects, 30k and 40k goals can checked as completed, but 20k areas and 50k purpose cannot.

        Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
        So, in a GTD system this tidbit would be in the 'purpose' field of several projects. In the book there is that chapter about project planning, how every project has a purpose and a sucessful outcome and so on.
        Same in different words: "increase our sales" is a area of responsibility or focus (or purpose if you like it better), which creates projects. Those projects will be finished, but "increase our sales" stays until it is otherwise removed (e.g. major change in strategy). In every weekly review (or monthly review) you think about area "increase our sales" and ask yourself, what projects were completed since last time I thinked this and what new projects there needs to be.

        Example:
        area of focus: "increase our sales" --> project: "Ad campaign for summer" --> NA: "draft a proposal for campaign"
        Last edited by kkuja; 12-28-2011, 01:10 PM. Reason: fixed minor typo, added small clarification

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        • #5
          While I agree with previous posters that your example of increase sale is not an open ended project but instead a higher level item I find that I have many open ended projects that really are projects.

          The more standard GTD system calls anything you maintain as an area of focus. However there are also supposed to be relatively few areas of focus. I find those things to be mutually exclusive in my world. If an AOF is only stuff you maintain then I have several hundred of them. However standard GTD seems to call roles as AOF and not really things you maintain.

          Instances within an AOF of specific items can be managed as GTD projects. I make AOFs much larger: Stuff like manage sheep flock are subsets of the manage the farm sustainably AOF and within that are on-going projects of the regular vaccinations, wormings, hoof trims, shearing and so on that are part and parcel of farming. I guess the difference is that while I consider projects that come back around to be open ended other people don't.

          So I think GTD principals can easily be used to manage open ended or recurring projects. Each specific instance is a reasonable project with a defined end, even if it's arbitrary. I do a lot of things based on the calendar so project may repeat several times in the year or once a year but they are still projects.

          So while I think your example is not an open ended project I thing GTD can mange open ended projects.

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          • #6
            Thanks everyone! Some very helpful thoughts there

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            • #7
              goals vs. projects

              For me, “increase our sales” would be a goal mostly because to do that would require multiple projects (or sub projects if you want to call them that).

              However even as a goal this is too vague to be very useful. To be a more practical: needs to be attached to some kind of actual point. For example, “increase our sales by 10%” or “increase sales in clothing department by Christmas.”

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              • #8
                "Increase our sales" sounds like a 30,000 ft (goals and objectives) item to me. It seems to fit the definitions:

                * What do I/we want and need to accomplish within the next 12-24 months to make the vision happen?
                * What are my/our performance goals and personal/company plan?

                So "increase our sales" would be a performance goal. A metric, or successful outcome, for that goal might be "end-of-year sales are up by 10% over last year".

                Either way, I don't think it would be useful as a project because it doesn't say anything about what you need to do - "increase" is a looser verb in this context than, say, "implement" or "install" or "distribute". Projects that fall under the "increase sales" objective might be "update website", "print brochures", "get all sales leads up to date" etc.

                That said, this seems like a context-based, sliding scale with no clear answer. Unless someone can neatly explain how to robustly classify these sorts of things?

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                • #9
                  What I didn't note was that the Horizons of Focus model seems to have a time component to it, and maybe this is the key.

                  So "increase sales" as a general goal would sit at 30,000 ft, but "increase sales by 10% by the end of this financial year" would be a Project (10,000 ft). And the Area of Focus (20,000 ft) above this project would be...what?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Toby Jarvis View Post
                    What I didn't note was that the Horizons of Focus model seems to have a time component to it, and maybe this is the key.

                    So "increase sales" as a general goal would sit at 30,000 ft, but "increase sales by 10% by the end of this financial year" would be a Project (10,000 ft). And the Area of Focus (20,000 ft) above this project would be...what?
                    Probably just "Sales" or a job title. However, you should note that for most people, there is no inevitable pyramid. A project may serve multiple higher-level purposes, or none of them. It's not nearly so useful to place "fix leaky roof" in a hierarchy as it is to get the leaks stopped!

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