“Start with the end in mind” is my number one principle. To clearly visualise what the end goal should look like and work backwards. To work out all the steps that need to be taken, or need to be in place, to reach this goal. This applies to everything from planning a simple meeting through to planning an entire project. If I am not sure what I am trying to do at the start it can store up issues for later.
Mission statements / Project or Business Objectives
Typical objectives, set by the sponsor, could be to Increase efficiencies or support new business but even when something seems fairly obvious, if it is possible to put a number on it then you must. Ambiguous objectives can cause conflicts with stakeholders as the project progresses and people interpret objectives. All objectives need to be detailed. measurable and clear.
Throughout the project every decision and every task can be tested against the objectives; a decision or task is either taking us closer to or further from where we want to go, and with clear objectives this can be judged
Meetings & workshops ( design, requirements interviews, working group, steering etc)
If you know what output you need or what a result should be then it is easy to work backwards. Each exchange needs an objective, be that a decision to be made or a requirement to be defined. This will feed into the agenda, a list of questions or discussion topics. It pays to be organised and structured.
Certain structured documents have a clear purpose like a Business Requirement doc or a Project Initiation Doc but even these still need a clear end in mind. It could be who the intended audience is, as this can affect the language you use or deciding the level detail required.
Mission Statements, Meetings and Documents are only a few examples of where this principle can be applied. It can and should be used in everything we do.