How to start a project successfully: Kick-off with the 5W2H method

Timo Gerhardt, Tuesday 10 October 2023 | Reading time: 7 min.

At the start of the project, it is always important to clearly define the cornerstones of the project. Using the 5W2H method ensures that no essential aspects are left out.

The kick-off of your project and its importance

All beginnings are difficult. This is often the case with projects as well. Before the project starts, sometimes there is only a vague goal, for example a deficit that needs to be solved. How to get to the solution of the problem is often unclear. So the destination of the journey that your project represents is fixed. How you get there - on which route, with which means of transport, and with which travel provisions - is the question that needs to be answered in the next step.

To get clear about the project and the corresponding plan, the 5W2H method serves as an effective tool. The 5W stand for the English question words What, Why, Where, When, Who and the 2H for How and How much. The method is not only convincing due to its simplicity, but also helps to create a well-founded project plan. The method is almost universally applicable and creates clarity for the project team in the most important issues. The core of the method lies in 7 central questions, which we present to you below.

The 7 central questions

The 5 W´s and the 2 H´s

What will be done? - What will be done to achieve the project goal?

The first question to be answered in the 5W2H method is probably the most obvious and also the most essential. It is to clarify what is to be done to achieve the project goal. For example, it is possible to imagine a project whose goal is to make the sales process more efficient. For this, it may make sense to implement appropriate sales software to facilitate the sales process and its execution. The implementation of the software is thus the answer to the first of the seven questions.

Why will it be done? - What are the specific reasons for this measure?

The second question then deals with the reason for the action described in the first question. First and foremost, the reason for doing it is always to achieve the goal. Here, however, one should be more specific. In the above example, reasons should be given as to why the introduction of sales software makes sense and not, for example, further training of the sales staff or a reduction in the product range.

Where will it be done? - Where is the right place for the project?

The next steps are more specific about the implementation of the project. First, it is clarified where the project will be implemented. Several considerations should be included here. Consideration should be given to where the project team members are located and where potential external partners are located. Also relevant is where the project deliverable will be used and what project environment is needed for the best possible execution. In an increasingly digitalized world, however, many projects can be carried out regardless of location. Since the above example involves the introduction of software, the project should possibly be carried out at a location where concentrated IT expertise is available. This enables efficient integration into the existing system landscape.

When will it be done? - What is a reasonable timeframe for implementation?

The fourth point deals with the temporal context of the project. It is determined when the project will start, how long it should last and when the planned end of the project is. Here, too, various aspects play a role. First and foremost, one should ask how urgent the implementation of the measure is. Further, it should be considered when the required resources will be available. At this point, the stakeholders of the project should be included. So, in our example, if the inefficiency of the sales process represents an acute deficit that threatens the profitability of the business activity, the project should be implemented as early as possible, provided that the availability of manpower makes this possible.

Who will get it done? - What is the composition of the project team?

Next, the composition of the project team is important. A project manager is appointed and the requirements for the project team are defined. According to these requirements and the availability of potential employees, the project manager puts together a powerful team. For the example mentioned, sales experts as well as IT specialists are important in order to successfully manage the project.

How will it be done? - What steps are necessary to achieve the goal?

The next step is to elaborate on the answer to the first question. What will be done is already clear. However, it is still unclear how it will be implemented in concrete terms. In this process, the central task is broken down into smaller parts, which makes concrete planning much easier later on. In the context of our example, the concrete requirements for a possible software may first be identified before various alternatives can be considered. Then a decision is made in favor of a software on the basis of a scoring model. Finally, the software is implemented in the system landscape before the sales process is adapted.

How much will it cost to make? - What costs can be expected?

The last component of the method already deals concretely with budgeting. An initial estimate is made of the costs that the project will entail. In our example, these can be license costs for the software, personnel costs for the employees or other expenses for resources.


The 5W2H method can be used to clarify the cornerstones of almost any project in a clear form and in a meaningful order. It helps you to become aware of the project and serves as a comprehensive basis for a sophisticated project plan.


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