Tag Archives: project planning

Launching a New Initiative

New Initiative - VisionLaunching a New Initiative?  Start with a Clear Vision

It sounds cliche, but it is surprising how often things get started in an organization as a “groundswell effort” instead of a properly planned new initiative.  If you think this is happening to your latest project, take time to reflect.  Without proper planning, the new initiative will stall out and will not reach its full potential. You need to take corrective action. Here are five tips to make sure your launch is smooth and that it continues to progress once you have launched it.

  1. Have vision. The reason many new efforts fail is not because they are not inspired or ultimately helpful—it is because they do not have vision. What they are designed to do, the purpose behind the effort, and the benefits to the organization are not clearly defined. Without these three aspects being clearly articulated, you may not be able to sell your initiative to relevant stakeholders, nor actually get it off the ground if it is given the green light.
  1. Get support from the organization. Trying to launch a new initiative without the support from your organization is nearly impossible. Make sure that they are committed not just to the idea, but to long-term implementation. Like giving birth to a baby, your effort needs nurturing, not just at the start, but over its entire life.
  1. Build a great team. The right team can make all the difference. Someone needs to be the champion of the cause. This person should be a great leader and they should have a firm grasp on the initiative’s vision and its direction.  You also need to recruit team members with varied backgrounds for the various elements you need to address.
  1. Make your objectives clear. Only when you have clear objectives will you really be able to give direction to your new initiative , keep it on track, and measure your success. Before the launch, you should have a hypothetical timeline with specified dates as to when you are going to deliver certain things and when you are going to achieve certain goals. This doesn’t have to be a concrete plan, but you must have general guidelines spelled out upfront.
  1. Be flexible. A common reason new projects fail is because they are not prepared for when things do not go as originally planned. Prepare to be flexible, so that you can easily adapt to any changes or shifts. It is not impossible for the initiative to be quite different in final form than was originally planned.  That’s OK.  It means you got something started, made proper adjustments, and now have provided something valuable for your firm.

If you follow these basic guidelines, you will be on track with your new initiative.  Be patient, and seek small victories.  You will keep the team and your firm engaged.

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!