Focusing questions and project charters are great, but where do you start?

I am starting a bunch of small projects at the moment and people are rushing to help define the solutions.  That is great but I am (as always) nervous that we are providing solutions before we really understand what we want to solve.

I like to define the problem (or vision) and then a rough plan to get there and with this in mind I have already published an article suggesting teams use a project charter and possibly a product statement, but where do these come from? 

I usually start right at the beginning, by asking people what they want and then asking what they mean by that – I call that approach a “question compass” because it is useful for finding your direction right at the start of things.

But even with all those links, how do you go from “hi, there my name is James – what would you like today?” through to “Cool, here is an initial project charter – it will allow us to address the enclosed focusing question … that will be $3.2M if you choose to continue, have a nice day”.

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