Projects - waste or investment?

Are you running, working in or planning a project? If so - do you consider it to be an investment or rather a waste of time and money? If it’s the latter you are unfortunately probably right. Most projects do not deliver anywhere close to the wanted result and definitely not on time within budget. The reasons are quite well known. Goals are not clear, communication is inferior, the administration takes too much time and energy and motivation is low. The keys to success are motivation, relations, and communication. How can you change your project from waste to investment? In a world where anticipating and handling change is the single most important key to having a competitive advantage you cannot avoid running “projects” but that does not mean the activities have to be set up as a traditional project!

Use the simple 4 step model: 

  1. Start with focus on understanding the problem the project is supposed to solve. I joined a company in a role that after 6 weeks of improving processes and getting rid of the backlog wasn’t there anymore. It’s very common that projects are set up to solve the “wrong problem”. 
  2. Analyze what possible solutions there are to the problem. This is the second most common trap. Managers set up a directive based on the knowledge they have. You or another experienced person come in and should question the directive since it’s in most cases not very good. There are almost always better solutions available and they are seldom neither more expensive nor difficult but often more inconvenient, more different and nobody likes change! 
  3. Decision is an underestimated obstacle. The lack of ability to make decisions, communicate decisions, question decisions and be prepared to change a decision is often hidden behind very good excuses and rational reasons. Organisations overanalyze to postpone decision making, they avoid to communicate so they don’t risk to be questioned and they rather stick to a proven wrong decision than to admit they were wrong. So silly! Make quick decisions but communicate and let them be questioned. Most quick decisions are just as good as the slow ones but in the communication process the expertise in the organization can have a saying and when managers are prepared to change a decision the respect grows and people are prepared to take more responsibility next time.
  4. Implementation is the long but fairly easy part. The only very strong advice I have is to skip heavy administration. Focus on the 80 % that will take only 20 % of time and money. Everybody feel secure when they can dig into each tiny detail and investigate it thoroughly but what happens is that the team loses the overview. Suddenly everybody is discussing details and nobody the result they are going to achieve. Trust me I have seen it happen more times than even I would like to admit. 

The model can be found in my book "Leadership & Wisdom - How to Motivate Yourself and Others." 

A few useful keys that will guarantee success if you stick to them:

  • Ask questions - other people know more than you in many areas
  • Listen to what they have to say (don’t laugh - most people never listen to the reply they get)
  • Don’t be prejudiced - if someone was wrong last time does not mean they are wrong now
  • Be prepared to change - nothing will remain as it was, just admit it and be more positive to new ideas
  • Be visual! Draw pictures and let others do the same. A picture says more than a thousand words. The visual intelligence has increased several times more than our IQ the last decades.
  • Be short! Less is more! Use only 50 % of the material you planned. Let there be silence! The good ideas often need a bit of silence - air and room to grow.

Good luck in making your project the best investment you ever made! If you have questions or additions - you know where to find me!