We’ve all worked on projects before. Whether they are part of our day-to-day work function or an occasional occurrence, we can all appreciate the value of careful planning and preparation before starting a project. But we’ve also all been there when a project takes a turn, and not for the better!
Whether a lack of communication, missed a deadline or other goof within the project, proper preparation and strategy lays a solid foundation for any projects and helps prepare for and negate project hurdles before they become insurmountable.
So what are the most critical elements to include in that foundation? We’ve outlined four below that we feel the most important to consider:
- Set expectations upfront
- Scope by starting with the end in mind
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
- Know your timelines
1. Set Expectations Upfront
First and foremost, before any project can begin you need to set proper expectations and lay everything out on the table with your client or vendor. This will save everyone a headache down the road.
So how do you go about navigating this conversation diplomatically?
To begin, start with the end in mind. Discuss what the result of the project will look like and what it will achieve. You’ll dig deeper into this during scoping, but it’s a good idea to loosely map out results for the project during the layout of expectations.
From here you can figure out who is responsible for what and how communication during the project will take place. This leads to the development of a timeline and who will communicate with who if there is a holdup or problem getting deliverables finished by a specific date. This will also help everyone avoid the dreaded phrase of “I thought you were going to do that…”
Don’t wonder about who will do what, know who will do what and define those relationships upfront.
2. Scope by Starting with the End in Mind
This is probably the single most crucial part of project planning and for avoiding hurdles during the project. The work you’re going to do must be scoped correctly from the beginning, or you’re going to end up not happy, with a completely different result, scratching your head as to what happened.
Well going back to the set expectations, start with the end in mind and think about the future state. Where do you want to be in one year? Five years? Even ten years down the road? Make sure these goals align with expectations and what the client or vendor can deliver on.
This means doing your due diligence now and not taking shortcuts. Take the time to talk with your subject matter expert’s (SME’s) for each area of the project and be sure you have the right information. One perspective isn’t necessarily going to be enough, but keep in mind that it is possible to have too many cooks in the kitchen as you get further and further into the project.
3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
We can’t stress enough the importance of communication for any project. Whether the team you’re working with is made up of internal or external members, it is almost impossible to over communicate.
Having a plan in place as to how stakeholders will be updated will, again, provide a clear path forward should any hurdles during the project come up.
A project manager (PM) is always a good idea. They'll be the ones to make sure you’re staying within the scope outlined at the beginning, go to with questions, and just generally hold the project together.
4. Know Your Timelines
Before making any deadlines or due dates for a project, make sure you have the internal bandwidth to complete the project from the outset.
The most significant issue we see with projects with internal or external teams is saying yes to a plan before they’ve even figured out if they have all of the necessary resources to complete the project.
Common Project Hurdles
Okay, so not all hurdles are avoidable during projects. So what can you do if your project starts to derail? Be upfront and honest about any issues with key project stakeholders as quickly as possible. By taking ownership and identifying areas where you fell short to cause the hurdle will likely create others involved on the project to share where they may have dropped the ball.
The best thing to do in this situation is to re-evaluate, re-communicate and salvage where salvageable.
It can be a snowball effect of issues if your expectations, scope, communication, and timeline is not on track. Take the time to map out each of those critical areas and remember to always be proactive versus reactive during project hurdles. And if you make it through an entire project with no hiccups, bottle up that magic and sell it to the rest of us!
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