You make a promise – you have to keep it. Whether it’s as a child at school or in business today, when you say you will do something by a certain time then delivering on that expectation is a basic of being in business for the long term. Why is it difficult to keep our promises? Our challenge in the work place is that it often takes many stakeholders who have many competing priorities and different skills to work together seamlessly to achieve a goal. What is a magic skill that enables this to happen? Project management.
Wikipaedia defines project management as: “the practice of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria at the specified time” It is a skill that has its roots in construction and other industries where it was critical to specify and deliver on time. In those industries the discipline is well established. There are many great courses and certification to build this skill to a finely tuned level.
The challenge becomes applying those skills in sectors where work is more fluid and the structure and discipline that comes with strong project management is seen as over bureaucratic and not conducive to being agile. However using basic principles of project management can greatly increase your chances of keeping your promises to your stakeholders.
What is the essence of good project management that can be applied even in small fluid organisations? Here are four things that I have found to be key:
What will the project outcome be? How will you measure the impact? What will stakeholders notice as a result? How will things be different as a result of the project? What is the tangible deliverable? When will the project be finished? What is the specific timeline you are working towards? Are there interim deliverables? Is this specific project aligned with your strategic goals? Do all stakeholders agree with the stated goals? Answering these questions will drive the clarity of your end state.
- Involve the right people to get to the goal
What skill sets are needed to be part of the project in order to deliver on your promise? Will you be able to get people with these skills to work on your project? Are there people on the project team who have done these kinds of projects before? Do you need resource from outside your organisation? Do you have a project manager? Will people be motivated to contribute their best? How will you continue to motivate them? If you involve the right people who are motivated then you have dramatically increased your chances of success.
- Define the cost
How much will the project cost? How much time do you need from each of your team members? Are there other resources that are needed? These questions can be difficult to assess, having skilled people to help to do this up front can be invaluable as you make decisions on whether to progress.
- Communicate to everyone who will be impacted by achieving the goal
Is people’s work going to change as a result of this project? Who will need to be updated on project progress? When and how will you communicate to your stakeholders? This communication is critical throughout the project. Projects will change as you progress (especially for less concrete projects) whether in terms of what will be delivered or how much it will cost.
If you do these four things well then you will be on a solid footing for success. As I reflect on these tips they are also relevant to organisational change management. Maybe that is the real skill that is critical for success?
If you are interested in starting projects that will result in success – let’s talk about your goals.
Thanks go to my reviewer Martino Picardowho originally suggested that Project management was the most important (and missing!) skill in the BioTechnology sector.