All projects begin with a plan. It seemed like a good plan. So why do project and business plans end up in the bottom drawer – forgotten and failed – despite hundreds of hours of investigation, analysis and great ideas. What stands in the way of converting plans into actions?
THE PROBLEM: NO ALIGNMENT
Even the most practical ideas will fail if they don’t match up with your company’s business goals. Every idea must fit within a company’s mission, intentions and business objectives.
The solution: First, confirm your business goals. Do you need to focus on customer service. Is the business all about income and turnover, or cutting costs. Do you want to go global, or support local communities? Then then map every step of your plan against those objectives. Not only should the outcome be aligned, even the way the project is executed might need to change. If your culture is democratic, your project will need consultation and agreement.
THE PROBLEM: POOR PLANNING
It is difficult to estimate what it costs to implement a brand new idea or process. Optimists may be best at presenting the ideas, but you need at least one pessimist as part of the planning process. You need to make sure that time and budget is allowed for setbacks, or the project will appear to be “failing” after a few weeks.
The solution: Think through your project plan as though you were living it. Look for potential problems and risks. REALLY look. Check what will be needed (dependencies) for each step, and what would happen if that requirement wasn’t ready. Then see what skills and products you lack, and – if the idea is still feasible – build it, buy it or outsource it.
THE PROBLEM: NO COURAGE
In today’s corporate work, new ideas mean risky. many executives are afraid of taking on any project that might flop. Everyone wants someone else to make the decision, and therefore take the blame. Many companies hire consultants for just this reason.
The solution: If you want your team to make big things happen, there has to be equally big rewards. You also make sure that those who do fail, don’t get fired for trying. When someone does fail, hold that person up as a model — someone who had the courage to try.
THE PROBLEM: NO BATTLE LEADER
Moving an idea from plan to action take a leader and most executives are hired as managers. They are encourage to maintain an efficient status quo, not encourage changes that disrupt the system. Good ideas die because they are orphans, lost and alone.
The solution: If you genuinely want to carry an idea forward, appoint a battle captain who is responsible for that idea and who is authorized to make it happen. And then support them.
THE PROBLEM: NO PERFORMANCE METRICS
How will you know when the goal has been achieved? If you don’t know what result you are striving for in the first place — how you are going to achieve it?
The solution: Start by defining a clear and measurable desired result. Exactly how much better, and in what way. Then work backward. Map out each step that must be achieved, from the concept to the final delivery. Then put an experienced project manager in charge of each step. Be clear in defining the links between project phases.
THE PROBLEM: NO INTEGRATION
Collaboration is a essential if an idea is to be actioned. All the pieces (both people and tech) need to work together. Groups of people or systems can only work together if they are encouraged to work together, and if they all have the aligned incentives to succeed. It takes time and effort to manage a team under the pressure of deadlines.
The solution: Always be aware that a fixed, top-down corporate structure can slow down tasks and get in the way of teamwork. Business leaders in power are not always committed to new ideas. You might need to create a “virtual swat team” of trusted people outside the corporate line hierarchy, who have budget and authority, and who are rewarded for putting the plan into action.