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  • Iwona Wilson

Getting Your Project Right from the Start: Lessons from the Oil and Gas Industry

a woman staring at project team that is brainstorming for an idea
Getting Your Project Right from the Start: Lessons from the Oil and Gas Industry

Ever wonder why some projects succeed and others flop? A lot of the time, it's all about how they begin. Just like building a house, if the foundation isn't solid, the whole thing can come crashing down. This is especially true in project management, and the oil and gas industry has some valuable lessons for us. 

While many discussions on project management focus on execution and closure, the real magic happens in the initial stages.

This article delves into the crucial early phases of the opportunity and project lifecycle, highlighting the importance of a thorough project health check checklist to navigate these waters successfully.

Some Projects Don't Make It

Think about it: about 70% of projects across industries run into trouble because they didn't start off on the right foot.

They didn't fully get the project idea, rushed through planning, or picked a solution without really checking if it was the best one.

Projects can fail for a variety of reasons, but a significant factor is inadequate attention to the early stages. Failure to fully understand the idea, explore all potential solutions, and define the best course of action sets a shaky foundation for everything that follows.

Starting Strong: The Oil and Gas Way

The oil and gas sector has been nailing the early stages of project planning for years.

Contrary to the traditional project management lifecycle, the oil and gas industry uses an opportunity and project lifecycle which begins well before planning and execution. 

It encompasses three critical stages:

  • Understanding the Idea (Assess): This initial phase is all about getting to grips with the project's core concept. What problem are we solving? Why is this project necessary?

  • Exploring Solutions (Concept): Here, various solutions are brainstormed and assessed and decision criteria are defined. It's a creative and open-ended stage where no idea is too outlandish to consider.

  • Defining the Best Solution (Development): Among the explored solutions, the best one is chosen based on feasibility, cost, impact, and alignment with the project's goals (or based on any other defining criteria)

This approach is called Front-End Loading (FEL), and it's like doing your homework before you start the actual work. By nailing these early steps, projects in the oil and gas industry are way more likely to succeed. And the same can apply to any other industry!

The Value of Front-End Loading (FEL)

Front-End Loading is about investing time upfront to thoroughly assess an opportunity, identify the key value levers, pinpoint risks and uncertainties, and solidify a high-quality project solution before significant resources are committed.

This careful, deliberate approach in the early stages can dramatically save you time and money and increase a project's chances of success.

The chart above shows that even projects with good project management and execution but low project definition achieve lower outcomes than projects with good project definition and poor execution.

Ultimately, the goal of FEL project management is to ensure that you are going to meet the schedule and budget (which determines the ROI) set for the project.

Using opportunity framing improves front-end loading, which occurs throughout the first two phases of project lifecycle.

The Power of a Good Checkpoint

In these early stages, it's crucial to have strong checkpoints. Think of them as mini-tests your project needs to pass before moving on to the next level.

Having a checklist can make this a whole lot easier. Click here for a handy Project Gate Reviews Checklist that can help you make sure you're on track.

Borrowing the Best Bits from Oil and Gas

If there's one thing we can learn from the oil and gas folks, apart from their energy, it's how they frame their projects.

About 80% of the value of a project is decided in these early stages. If you mess up here, you might end up working on something that's not right or doing it all wrong.

Everything Starts with Good Framing

At the heart of a successful project is good framing. They help everyone involved get on the same page and make sure the project is set up for success from the start.

By giving the necessary attention and resources to the Assess, Concept, and Development stages, and by employing strategic tools like Opportunity Framing Workshops, project executives can set their initiatives on a trajectory towards success.

By focusing on the early stages with the help of a detailed project health check checklist, you're not just planning a project; you're setting the stage for triumph.

Start Your Project on the Right Foot

In short, a project well begun is half done. By taking a page from the oil and gas industry's book and focusing on the early planning stages, you're setting your project up for a win.

Remember, a good start is more than just planning—it's about making sure you're on the right track before diving in.

Feeling ready to give your project the solid start it deserves?

Great! We've got just the thing to help you out.

Grab our Project Health Check Checklist. It's your go-to guide for making sure those early stages are as strong as they can be, setting the stage for everything that comes after.

Don't leave your project's success to chance. Download the checklist which includes a link to our Gate Reviews Template too. Kick things off with confidence.

Your future self (and your team) will thank you!

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