I can say with 100% confidence that if you are reading this post you have once been responsible for the success of a project. Granted, your project could have simply come from a honey-do list or you may be a designer, developer or project manager by profession. No matter the case, the same principles apply. Keep these tips in your back pocket the next time you’re on the hot seat to deliver success.
Okay, here we go! Think back to when you were in school and your teacher told you to read all the questions before you got started. You were probably wondering, “This makes no sense at all” or “If I do this, I’ll run out of time.” Well, I’m here to tell you; just like many other things we learned in school, there was a reason for this. Hence, my first tip for you today:
Before you get started on your project, get an understanding of the big picture. It’s important to think through the project before the first task is completed.
And yes, there will most likely be other people assisting or associated with your project, so don’t forget about human dynamics. If you do, you will fail. From an early age we were also taught about teambuilding, leadership, conflict management/control and even internal politics of organizations. However, we quickly forget about the essentials:
Spend time building strong relationships. You will need them throughout your projects.
When presenting your ideas, know your audience and what’s important to them. Present accordingly.
Communicate, communicate, communicate (as a side note - this also works in marriage too).
Did you know that it has been widely accepted that it is people that deliver projects, not just processes and systems? Being responsible for a project, you must be able to draft and secure project champions. These are folks who have influence that can help you navigate project red flags and roadblocks. It’s a lot easier to do this when you have already spent time building relationships.
You may say, “Kevin, this is common sense.” Well it is, and these are things that are easy to do; but, if you don’t do them you won’t be successful. Now let’s continue.
How about your customers? You always mention, “The customer is always right” or “I’m doing this for my customers.” Do you really believe this? If so, please answer this question for me.
Are you planning to involve your customers at all in your project? Maybe you should.
At WOLF, our WOLF Classic Cabinet line was all about the customers. They picked the door styles, the construction type, the colors, etc. A product for our customers, chosen by our customers. In projects, you should always work through all processes and outputs with the customer in mind.
Several people have asked me in my career, “How do you keep projects moving once they are started? “ Well, I can honestly say, it’s been the same for me whether I was working on instituting a new 401(k) program for our organization or helping to develop and roll out an online ordering system for our customers.
Simplicity = speed, in most cases. Have clear deliverables from the start. Be flexible, but manage “scope creep.”
Remember the teacher I referenced above? If you took time to read all the questions, you will know whether the change to the project aligns with the project goals, the corporate strategy and the business objectives.
Projects are happening around us every day. The cheapest lessons are learned from others’ mistakes. Embed that learning into the continuous improvement of your project management practices. Speaking of continuous improvement (because you know I cannot write a blog without mentioning it):
Ensure your decision-making is based on facts. Relying purely on emotions can often take you down a path you don’t want to go.
Have a baseline. Measure your improvement or success. Develop best practices and share them with colleagues – they’ll love you for it (just like you love me, right?).
Always remember that successful projects can lead to improved bottom-line performance. However, the inverse applies as well. Without taking heed to a few of these tips (and I have a lot more where these came from), you may be destined to fail. Whether the economy is great or not, show me a person or company that has time to fail.
Work smarter, not harder and good luck on your next project!
About the Author: Kevin is Vice President of process innovation and technology with WOLF.
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