Clarifying Thoughts into Plans

Learn the aspect of clarifying thoughts in the project plan.

We'll cover the following


In this chapter, we’ll introduce the last foundational skill—driving toward clarity. It is not a single step in the management process but is instead a skill that is applied to every process we drive and every decision we make. It is the reason why we will hear the TPM in the room ask why and how. It’s why we see TPMs running meeting after meeting, working session after working session, and attending every standup that they can fit into their schedule. They are constantly taking the data they have and clarifying it so that it has no ambiguity left and is easier to understand and follow. This then feeds into getting consensus because, without clarity, it is hard to get past the first stage of getting everyone onto the same page, and we can’t move on to driving consensus.

As this skill permeates everything we do as leaders, it is not a pillar but the mortar that transforms a pile of bricks into a wall. It is an integral part of who we are and the reason this topic gets its own chapter!

We’ll learn how to drive toward clarity by exploring the following topics:

  • Clarifying thoughts into plans

  • Using clarity in key management areas

  • Finding clarity in the technical landscape

Let’s get started!

The pursuit of clarity

Everyone drives toward clarity in some aspect of their life. It is the act of taking knowledge and applying it to a situation to make the path forward better understood, and to lead to the desired outcome.

As an example, a retail worker may look at a product layout diagram, along with the products they have on hand, and the actual shelving they have available, and do their best to match the diagram—while also making minor adjustments or judgment calls. They are driving toward the end goal of a properly stocked display. In the same situation, the worker may just be told to make a display out of the seasonal summer products. In this case, the level of ambiguity is much higher than the first—there is no diagram and no specific list of products, so the complexity and number of decisions are much higher. In both cases, the worker drives toward clarity to end up with a properly stocked display.

This is also true for a TPM and the roles that surround it. What makes a TPM shine is that they drive clarity in every aspect of their job. We question everything and everyone to ensure that the objective is as clear as it can be. In this respect, a TPM must be willing to question requirements from upper management just as deftly as from a leader on a peer team.

The most common area where this comes into play is in the problem statement, which answers the question "what is it that we are trying to solve?" It is such a large part of our job that many role guidelines specifically mention the concept with varying degrees of complexity. The below figure shows a common breakdown of the level of ambiguity a problem statement will have for a TPM based on their career level:

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