If you have experienced this you're not alone as most project managers experience this problem often. Unfortunately projects can be assigned last minute and no background or additional information is given. So you're able to create a practical project management framework, but unable to provide much inspiration for your team.
This can leave all team members feeling pretty flat, particularly when the answer to questions is met with; "because that's what the client wants' or "because the MD requested it". You have such a limited ability to help your team see the bigger picture when this happens and may feel a little more than hindered by this lack of information. After all, you're management as well so shouldn't you have access to this vital information?
The key information can be found, you just have to know how to look for it.
If you can find out how and why the business you work for selects projects for the organisation, you will get an answer to why each and every unexpected project is important.
Every sector, industry and business is different in how they select their projects
Although this is true, there are general factors that make up every companies project selection process. It is more than likely there will be a general selection process every project idea goes through. This process will more than likely incorporate your company's type of business, with defined areas of selection dedicated to the core values of your company.
In the beginning...
To get anywhere with this process you need to start from the beginning, or the core of the company you work for if you like. Your organisation should have a mission statement that you clearly understand. This mission statement explains who you are as a company and why you do what you do. Considering this mission statement, think about the 6 month, 3 year, 5 year and 15 year goals that the business hopes to achieve.
The projects that are selected will more than likely contribute towards reaching these goals. You should expect to understand the goals clearly to enable you to use them in your project management strategy. So rather than a general term of 'becoming more ECO friendly' it should be 'reducing our carbon footprint by 20% within the next five years'. This means tasks and goals within your project can be measured against this objective.
Remember that every project will focus on a different objective
The business you work for will have a large portfolio of past projects. Each project within that portfolio will meet various objectives. The company's project portfolio will be created to deliver the highest possible levels of performance. It is also important to remember that some projects will only have the objective of meeting regulatory requirements and/ or be taken on to increase brand strength.
Remember project ideas come from everywhere
If you work within a well balanced company you should feel that everyone is able to make project suggestions. The best companies enable everyone to contribute, ensuring the most experienced members of staff review those suggestions so that different perspectives and ideas are taken into account.
By understanding this process of selection you can understand why projects are selected and more importantly, understand that they have been selected because they are a priority for the company.
You may not know exactly why you need to do it, but you'll have a much better idea than you did before, enabling you to use core company values as a huge source of inspiration and reasoning for your team, which will help achieve a successful project. Good project management can still be achieved even if the project did not get off to a great start.