This is a big topic for a short article. While I’m not going to give you the encyclopedic solution to the challenge of getting more of the right work done on projects more effectively and getting projects completed on time, I am going to share of few insights that I and my team have been learning about this important topic.
First, a bit of backstory.
As our team has grown, the need for processes, better communication and importance of the right tools have grown too. We certainly aren’t alone with this challenge – and because of these challenges, we had become slower to implement, had become less adaptable and agile. As these facts became clearer, they became more of a frustration for me as the leader, and for the whole team.
So in December we brought in project management and leadership expert Lou Russell to spend an afternoon with us. Lou not only gave us great ideas, she gave us a chance to talk about our own processes (and lack thereof) and approaches, and created a dialogue that has allowed us to make some important strides forward. Here are some of the things we have learned in implementing these new ideas over the last two months.
Get Everyone On-board Sooner. One of our big problems was not having all the people who would be impacted by the implementation for the project in the loop soon enough. We are implementing Lou’s project scoping process as a way to help do that – and we saw immediate improvement in speed, comfort, and communication. Find or define a process to get all the players on-board sooner.
Project Management, but Not Only the Project Manager. We needed to get better at assigning roles and identifying a project manager, and while that is critical, and the skills of the project manager are important; it doesn’t all belong to that person or that role.
Create Clear Roles, but Mutual Ownership. This may be an extension of the last lesson, yet it must be stated. Too often on our team (and in organizations we work with), roles aren’t clear enough, or if they are, the specific roles leads to barriers being built , so that people focus on their piece, but lose sight of the big picture. Help your team members to understand their role, and the roles of everyone else, without losing the joint ownership that is needed for project success.
Clarity is Critical. I just mentioned clarity of roles, but it is more than that. Clarity of roles, goals, expectations, communication flows, quality standards and much more can help immensely. The sooner you start to create this clarity, the better. Stated another way, every day that this clarity is lacking, your project is lagging and the team is getting frustrated. Make clarity job one.
Use Common Tools. We aren’t using highly sophisticated project management tools, but we are using tools that help use communicate and understand progress, save us time and keep us on track. Find tools that will work in your situation, and them use them consistently.
Begin With The End in Mind. With apologies to Stephen Covey and his awesome 7 Habits; this idea completely applies to project implementation. Even on a small team we weren’t always all clear on the point or purpose of a project. As a leader, you might be nodding your head in agreement (or shaking your head or finger at me that I should know better), but remember this – just because you know the purpose, you can’t assume everyone else does.
If you wanted to argue that the things I’ve shared are fundamentals, it will be a short argument – because I agree. When a team does the things above they will be more successful in completing projects. The question for you isn’t whether you know these things, but rather whether you and your team are doing them consistently.
If you live in a world of projects, read the last sentence again, then decide what action you need to take.