Content and form in Projects

– Do you serve coffee only in the paper cups?, I ask the barista in an airport, directing his eyes to the white porcelain I noticed.

– Yes, in paper cups, he replies. But we can do it in porcelain. Only for you.

You can easily guess how much I enjoyed my cappuccino. And how much he enjoyed his well-deserved tip.

It is a job made easy when clients know what they want and the way they want it. See for example this cute lemur: The ideal client, right?

In the project’s world, it is not always the cute lemur we sit across the table. I was once working with a client who called me back after a meeting on technical requirements for the IT procurement with an innocent “I asked Mr Google, but he gave me no hints on what to include in the procurement notice”. 

Some clients know what they want – a new building, let’s say. But do not know or have not thought about what this building should do for them and how its functionality should match the organisation’s needs. It is not always that I know the answers straight away. In such cases, I press my “expert SOS ” button. And I get the client talking to the expert. I may spoil though their idyllic talk with the “keep it within the budget” reminder. And, as a project manager, I need to remember that it is not easy for the expert either to match the expectations of the client and of the project:

If the “expert” button is beyond reach, consultations with stakeholders and Systems Thinking come to rescue. If you wonder what is “Systems Thinking”, this is the source I first learned about it

Regardless of the approach chosen to identify what the client wants, the key is to make sure the ownership is there. We do want the client to enjoy his building and what it does for them. The same way I enjoyed my cappuccino, at least.


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