In my previous blog, I talked about getting change initiatives off on the right foot. This involves assembling your A-team, preparing a plan of attack, and kicking the project off. Assuming you have already done these things, you are set up to move forward successfully. So now let’s say the project has kicked off and everyone is mobilized. Expectations are high and people are energized. You got what you wanted – now you have to deliver. The initial excitement of launching a major initiative may linger or transition to some apprehension on what you have to accomplish, but regardless of how you feel, there are a couple of key things to keep in mind as you move into actually getting $#*! done.
PMO Stuff Matters:
In the execution phase of a project the devil really is in the details. The Project Management Office’s (or PMO’s) work matters and must be executed diligently and thoroughly, or things won’t get done on time or the way they need to. Most importantly, the PMO’s work includes managing and updating the workplan. I’m not a fan of workplans and managing them kind of feels like “taking your medicine,” however they are vital to keeping you on track. To be clear, I’m not talking about a detailed Microsoft Project plan with 100’s of lines of tasks; I’m a fan of a 1 page Gantt view with maybe 20 key tasks and a dozen major milestones – the details can be managed elsewhere. Secondly, in-person status updates with the leadership team (or steering committee or whoever is sponsoring the initiative) must also be done and they should be done on a regular schedule – I prefer every other week. Even if there doesn’t seem like there is much to report, the cadence is important. Getting the leadership team around the table on a regular basis minimizes surprises and it keeps the pressure on project leadership to ensure progress. Finally, issues must be managed and decisions must be made to address them. On previous change efforts I have led, I have literally brought in a list of issues and specific questions to the meeting that must be answered before the leadership team can leave the room.
People like to see progress being made. It satisfies our desire to make sure that our efforts are actually making things happen; the Executive Leadership team also wants to see that their investment is paying off. When project milestones are hit, it should be communicated and celebrated and people on the team should be given their due credit for advancing the ball. These “celebrations” should not be hokey – no “Hawaiian shirt” days! A congratulatory email or newsletter to the team from a senior executive, and possibly the broader organization, along with maybe a lunch or happy hour, will go a long way towards recognizing and rewarding progress. The harsh reality is that many initiatives fail, so by publicizing progress you maintain credibility, give management comfort that things are on track, and boost team morale. And everybody loves a free lunch!
Think Ahead, Behind, and Around:
As projects move into execution they are usually calm for a little while during the “honeymoon” period and then become more hectic as the first big milestones start to roll around. While the vast majority of PMO energy should be focused on the initiative at hand, it’s important to maintain awareness of other things going on in the organization that could impact the project. Has the company’s performance changed dramatically? If so, and the change is not good, you will need to consider how your initiative fits into the narrative of what the company is doing to address its problems. Are senior leaders in the company changing? If so, you need to understand their priorities and how they relate to the work you are doing. Are other major initiatives being launched? If so, you need to understand their needs and any potential competition for resources or leadership attention. Focus first and foremost on getting your initiative done as well as you can, but don’t get myopic and succumb to tunnel vision or you may miss the need to refine your message, re-align your project, or re-establish management support.
From my experience these three things can keep you on track to bring about the change you are seeking. Do them and you might actually do something a lot of people can’t do – get $#*! done.