Tag Archives: Communication

Digital Project Planning: Beware The “Magic Wand” Syndrome

The “Technology Challenged” Often Think The Technology Itself Can Make Up For Poor Project PlanningDigital Magic Wand - you still need proper project planning

There is a fairly prevalent situation that occurs in which technology savvy team members are asked to transform a half-baked idea/concept into some digital solution.  Unfortunately the non-technology folks are under the false impression that the technology itself (like a magic wand) will correct poor planning, faulty assumptions/bad logic etc.  This can cause strife and lead to friction among team members.

How do you combat this problem?   There are a few simple things you can do that help minimize (not prevent) this from occurring:

  • Require that a “project sponsor” be assigned to the business side of the project.

It is key that the project has one main sponsor who is the lead and has overall responsibility for project success.  If one is not evident, ask that one be appointed before moving forward.  The sponsor is vital because you will need a “go to” person for various circumstances and without one lead you are subjected to group decision-making which is ill-advised.

  • Start the project planning process with a “concepts discussion” meeting with project sponsor.

Prior to the formal requirements gathering, it is beneficial to get an “elevator pitch” from the sponsor that basically answers the question “what are we trying to do here?”. It is surprising how often the sponsor cannot clearly put into words the concepts of what they are looking to accomplish.  If the sponsor can’t do this – the project is doomed from the start.  Send them back to think it through and schedule another meeting when their thoughts have matured.

  • Ask the project sponsor many questions up front (in writing if possible).

This may sound quite obvious, but it is surprising how often this does not happen.  It is a crucial error to “get started” on a project without complete understanding of the requirements/framework.  Make sure the sponsor understands that pre-planning is necessary and the project will not start until sufficient background information is obtained.What you are seeking is a commitment on the part of the project sponsor to provide adequate background prior to starting the project.  Just like you wouldn’t ask a builder to start work on your dream house without plans – same applies here.

Here are a few starter questions:

Who is going to be using this digital tool?  How will they access/find it? What do you expect them to accomplish by using it?  (If dynamic, who is going to be responsible for maintaining the data that feeds it?

  • Don’t fall into the trap of estimating timelines too early.

Eager project sponsors will try to solicit a time commitment for the project, well before the requirements gathering is in full swing.  If asked for a completion date before the requirements are complete, there is a very simple answer to the inevitable question “When will it be done?” The proper response “I cannot tell you when until we know “what” it is and “how” we will build it.

While you cannot immunize your team from getting involved in misdirected projects, proper due-diligence on the font end can help minimize the number of times you have to re-group and restart the project.

Proper project planning prevents poor performance!


Listening Skills in Selling

When you read articles or hear discussions on communication skills, the focus is on the content (the words).  Be concise, maintain interest, avoid cliché’s, etc.  In my view the most important element to good communication is often left out:  good listening skills.Listening Skills

I got a call today from a gentlemen who represented a consulting firm.  He of course is trying to sell his firm’s services.  Generally I am not very fond of cold calls, but I had a few minutes and I gave him a shot.  WHAT A MISTAKE!  This guy’s listening skills were non-existent.  He asked me a question about our future plans, and I started discussing (very briefly) our plans for the remainder of the year and to start 2014.  He interrupted me mid-sentence and started talking about his firm.  I did not get to finish my thought, and It was rude that he did not allow me to finish my answer.

I am sure most intelligent business people out there would state that they believe proper listening skills are important.  But do you actually practice good listening skills?  Here are a few things you can do to make sure you are doing a good job of listening:

  • Keep in mind – you are trying to gain information about the prospect.  You gain information by asking questions and getting answers, not by making statements.  Avoid chest-thumping!
  • Ask open-ended questions.  This will engage the prospect, and hopefully they will reveal some information that you can use to take the conversation deeper.
  •  Employ follow-up questions based on the answers you obtain.  It is often when you get the most valuable information, and it signals to the other party that you are actively engaged in the conversation.  They will know their answers are important and registering with you.

 Good listening skills start with asking good questions!