7 Essential Steps to Successful Business Projects: A Useful Roadmap
— May 21, 2018
Although there is no magic bullet to transform your business into a successful powerhouse, I have witnessed similarities amongst those that grow more profitably. And what they have in common is the process steps of their business projects. Why not compare your own to the elements below and see how good yours really are?
Here are my 7 secrets to managing a successful business project. At first view, you might think that they are rather basic, but can you confirm that you have them for every project you run? If not, then they are well worth checking out. And they will be useful to you, whether you are just starting out or are looking to take your business to the next level.
1. A SUPPORT TEAM
As is often said to motivate us into exercising more:
“Change is more fun when there’s more than one.”
But this is relevant in business too. No-one ever changed a company, let alone its culture, by working alone.
Therefore start by gathering together a group of like-minded people as your support team.
If you are a solopreneur, like myself, then this is even more important, if not vital to your success.
You must have a sounding board to share ideas and get differing perspectives. People you can meet for a coffee or lunch so you don’t spend your days in your (home) office, behind your desk and in front of your computer.
Social media and Facebook groups are great for daily connections, but nothing beats the more intimate face-to-face discussions a personal meeting provides. So make sure you include two or three of them in your weekly agenda as a minimum.
If you work in a corporation, no matter its size, choosing the right group of team members will ensure that you have support to bring about the required improvements. Internal change is more a cultural than a process challenge so a team made up of members across the different departments will provide you with the necessary support.
And what I said about face-to-face meetings applies to you corporate slaves too! Don’t always take a coffee or go to lunch with your team or the same group of people. Take the opportunity to discuss with people you don’t normally come into contact with. They are likely to be in different departments and have new ideas and perspectives to share.
2. A PLAN
I know, most of us don’t like planning, we like action! I’m with you there! But it is a necessary evil, another vital element of success. As Alan Lakein, the writer of several self-help books on time management is famously quoted as saying:
“Failing to plan is planning to fail”
The content of a plan will obviously depend upon the objectives, but at a minimum, it should include details about:
- The problem
- The objectives and desired outcome / changes
- Team members and their (needed) experience
- Others who need to be involved and / or informed
- The suggested approach
- The information required in order to make the change
- External support necessary, if any, and why
- Time and budget resources available
- Any barriers or risks that could impact or restrict implementation
If any of these components are lacking or incomplete, then the project should not be started, nor any changes implemented. Insufficient execution and support is one of the main reasons why projects fail.
3. MANAGEMENT SUPPORT
Project success is always dependent upon gaining buy-in in one way or another, whether from management, key stakeholders or even the whole organisation.
This will only be possible if the project is seen as a company rather than a departmental or individual initiative. That is why all the components of the plan, as detailed above, are so important.
Any change is likely to meet with some resistance, that’s only human. We are creatures of habit who prefer to stay in our comfort zones. In fact, the brain actively avoids anything, which could destabilise our current position, whether good or bad.
We will only change when we are either forced to – not good – or agree to – good – because we see the outcome as positive, ideally for ourselves. Therefore management must explain what benefits are in the project for each employee, not just for themselves, the team or even worse, the shareholders!
4. A PROJECT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
In line with creating a plan, you must have a way to identify milestones and follow project progression. Therefore you need some sort of system to record and share progress with everyone concerned.
The platform you use can be as simple or as complex as you like, but should be appropriate for the complexity of the project itself. No point in buying a sophisticated project management system if it could be summarised in a simple spread sheet, Gantt chart or with a free online tool. (Microsoft Project, Zoho Projects, GanttProject, Asana)
“Horses for courses” is what is important. In other words match the system to the project and not the other way around.
Whatever you choose, it should be easily accessible, preferably visual, informative, user friendly and as intuitive as possible. If it isn’t, it won’t get used, it’s as simple as that!
5. LAUNCH FOLLOWING
Since most projects will have an end or launch date when it goes live, it is a good idea to make everyone aware of it. A celebration of some sort is useful for gaining both awareness and excitement around the project launch.
If you have not been very successful at getting company-wide support for your project, then this becomes even more important. The event will give you the opportunity to improve understanding and encourage everyone to get behind the launch.
Hopefully you will have already developed a name, perhaps a logo or a catchy phrase for the project and can now use them under your email signature or on posters and newsletters to announce the launch.
And don’t think that a single go-live event is sufficient. To gain maximum awareness and support it needs to be followed up with further occasions to celebrate additional milestones such as meeting different targets for adoption, distribution etc.
One added benefit of such follow-up events is that they remind all employees that this project is on-going and warrants their attention, if only to ensure they understand what it is about should anyone ask. It also enables people to use their own language and vocabulary to integrate it into their own projects, which is essential for long-lasting impact.
6. BEST-PRACTICE IMPROVEMENTS
As well as regular follow-up events, it is important to frequently track the current situation of the project roll-out. This ensures that any deviation from the plan is quickly identified and corrective actions taken.
This also helps to improve the original plan by pinpointing any areas that need additional steps or enhancements. It will also guarantee continued involvement by everyone since they will see that they have the chance to suggest changes.
In this way employees who were not involved in the original project do not feel it mandatory to execute as specified, when they know things could be improved. They will also feel concerned about the project’s success rather than excluded and will be more likely to give their ongoing support.
As with planning, documenting the steps of the process during and especially after the project is completed will align everyone behind it. By opening each step to commentary and even criticism ensures greater buy-in but also increases the chance of an optimised execution.
Of course this doesn’t mean that you have to accept every suggestion and constantly make changes; that would spell disaster for any project. But being open to listening to ideas ensures you and the team don’t miss any points which were not at first known.
I remember developing a business project process for a global CPG client, which unearthed three other projects that would impact ours, but of which the team had no knowledge. By identifying connections between the various projects we were able to both increase the impact of our own project, as well as acquire additional support from the other teams on many parts of it too.
These are the seven essential steps to a successful outcome of any plan. Of course they are by necessity pretty general in nature. But you would be surprised how many organisations forget one or more of these basics. Do you? Have I myself forgotten one? If so then I would love to hear what you would add. Just add a comment below and I will respond personally by return. Thanks.