by Fiona Wakelin
THE BIG IDEA
This is your lightbulb moment. All projects start with a big idea – which may be something like wanting to start your own business or developing new products, doing something completely new, or in your personal life it could mean upskilling yourself, building a home or fitness training. These activities, as diverse as they are, need to follow the guidelines of project management if they are going to succeed.
Once you have had your lightbulb moment, the next step is to work out whether it is going to be doable, viable, and in the case of business, profitable. How do you do this? By drawing up a cost/benefit document which will include:
- Team/ equipment/assets/resources required
- Benefits – financial, personal, social
And then there are the critically important “soft” issues. Take the temperature of your determination and commitment to your end goal. How tenacious are you? What is the opportunity cost? In other words, what will you be sacrificing in order to achieve this goal? Do you need a team to help you succeed? How committed and determined are they?
It is at this stage that you decide – “is it worth it?”. If the answer is no, then you have just saved yourself a lot of blood, sweat and tears. If the answer is yes – then it is time to proceed to the next step.
Your project plan should list and describe what you need in terms of people, equipment, material, resources and finance. How much of this list do you already have – and how much do you need to procure?
The schedule you draw up will be key to success and should contain trigger dates for next actions to take place. A useful tool for this is a GANTT chart – a bar chart which shows the schedule of the project and how the completion of each activity is related to all the other activities in the project.
You will need to have measurable bite-size deliverables achieved by certain dates which will then all add up to successfully reaching the end goal.
This is a good time to do a SWOT analysis with your team.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The strengths and weaknesses come from inside your team and the opportunities and threats come from outside – the legal, economic, political, social, natural environments.
What do you do well?
What sets you apart?
Skills of the team
What don’t you have?
Your big idea
Strengthening your assets
Innovating before others do
The gap in the market
The final part of the plan must be a detailed account of the 3 Ws – what by who by when.
Execution means doing something – putting your plan into action.
Once you are ready to start turning your idea into a reality, make sure all the dates of the bite-size chunk deliverables are listed on the calendar. The people who are accountable and responsible for the delivery dates must all have access to the same calendar.
The difference between being accountable and responsible:
The person who is accountable has to make sure that the goals/objectives are achieved i.e. team leader/manager
The person who is responsible actually does the work to make sure this happens i.e. the team
Your success or failure will depend to a large part on the team you choose and how they are managed. The most successful business owners are clear that they owe their achievement to the people they have surrounded themselves with. Your business culture should reflect your values and if you ensure this is part of the entire team’s work ethic the achievement of goals will reflect this.
Examples of values include:
Depending on the size of your big idea, the team/s should meet regularly to check if they are on schedule or falling behind. Regular meetings will help make sure that risks and/or threats are identified before they become a major problem in achieving the final goal. The team leaders must also meet regularly with you so that you can be sure the risks/threats are being managed. Also so that you can communicate clearly any changes that may have to be made to resource allocation and distribution. Giving back and showing appreciation are an important part of building a positive business culture.
Clear and regular communication within teams, within the business as a whole and with your clients/customers makes sure that everyone is on the same page – and any changes you may have to make to deal with risks and threats will not have a negative impact on your business’ reputation. And reputation is the most valuable asset your business owns.
IT’S A GREEN – GOAL ACHIEVED!
Once you have achieved your goal, delivered what you planned and communicated with you clients, then it is time for the project to close – and perhaps lead into the next cycle. This is the time to ensure that your team is celebrated and rewarded for timeous completion.
This project may have been a stand-alone goal for you to achieve or it may have been a step in a larger, ongoing project – both scenarios will, however require the next and final step.
LOOKING BACK AND LOOKING FORWARD – REVIEW AND EVALUATION
Reviewing and evaluation should be done by the whole team so that lessons may be learned for future projects. This will include looking at: what worked well, what could be improved on and what to do differently in terms of individual and team performance, budget, timeframe, marketing, resource allocation, reporting and response time to any red flags during the project. The final document should be saved along with the project plan so that for your next project you will be able to see immediately what worked and what did not.