At times, our company can be strenuously challenged with projects like preparing for tradeshows, moving employee offices, planning a company party, or even sending out holiday greetings. As a leader, despite rolling out the initiative and thinking myself to be prepared for the deadline, time often reveals that everyone is scrambling at the last minute to meet their goals. This doesn’t merely limit the ability for superior results; it also prevents those who might need to review from having the proper time to do so.
This may seem simple, but it’s not. Here are some questions that need to be answered before you walk away, only to find out last minute the plan did not have enough detail for your team to follow:
What is the result for which you are looking?
Identify not only what it might be, such as a tradeshow, the date and the size of the venue, but also what you as the leader expect to see and be accomplished, the target audience, and the overall goal of the project.
What is the final due date?
Oftentimes working backwards from the project due date allows you to realize how quickly time goes by, even when you think you have allocated yourself sufficient time.
Do you have a plan, SOP, or roadmap to get there?
This plan should include all necessary components, due dates for the physical inventory, a mock-up date if needed, and all the milestones along the way, including timing for budget, budget sign off, etc.
Who will participate?
This starts with the person preparing the plan, progresses to the manager of the plan, and then to all those people internal and external who need coordination for preparation, execution, set-up, tear-down, or whatever other components are involved, including the filing of historic information after the project is complete, and maybe even a reconciliation with accounting.
Who will manage (own responsibility for) the process?
Once the person is identified who will own the process, also identify who will hold them accountable, and what the consequences will be if they don’t follow the plan. The best way to do this is to have milestone checkpoints–not to ask about their progress, but to view progress in writing to ensure the ball is moving forward toward the envisioned result identified in step 1.
What are the milestones?
Identify when people need to come together for specific approvals to move forward. Coordinate and schedule with the people at the commencement of the project, and make sure to have time set aside, and especially for longer-duration projects, plan for occasional scheduling conflicts.
Who needs to sign off on or approve milestones and final?
Does your project require approval for design, budget and paying participants? What does that look like? Communicate the process and timing from day one.
What are the potential obstacles?
Maybe someone assigned to the project is new with the company, and is experiencing a learning curve. Someone who needs to be present could have an upcoming vacation or travel schedule. Thinking things through and allowing the appropriate time will prevent needlessly blaming an associate for missing a deadline.
Will we need this again?
Once the project is finished, you may need to do the same thing six months or a year from now.
How will it be saved/retried?
During and after the project, the team should be able to access the plan. Make sure all notes are saved regarding who worked on the project, who supervised it, and who approved it with sign-offs. This way, even if it’s a year later and you are questioning a budget, you have something with which to compare it, and can, over the course of time become more efficient with projects, by understanding the plan that works best for your company.
Our team has an upcoming conference and “expo” a little over a week after our return from the holiday break. We started planning well in advance, and a week prior to the expo, we will have a “mock-up” and review meeting, allowing enough time for adjustment prior to the Friday set-up and Saturday event.
I hope to see you at the event on January 11th, and if not at another event in the near future.