You know how The Office’s Michael Scott is frequently struck with “brilliant” ideas for new office projects that never end up panning out? That’s because he doesn’t do any of the important leg work to see them through. He’s simply at the whim of his flighty fantasies, inspired and motivated one day, and then completely deflated the next, when Jim or Toby has to bring him back to reality.
Now don’t get me wrong, new ideas are a great start when beginning your projects, but without a solid plan for implementation, they’re doomed to fail.
So let’s talk about what you can do to avoid Michael Scott’s mistakes and keep your projects on track.
When projects fail, it’s more than likely due to poor planning. One person thought they were responsible for updating the client spreadsheet when they were really supposed to be doing competitive research, and without the competitive research, the new project launch is now postponed, and so on and so on down the line.
You can avoid this by establishing clear expectations upfront. Start by breaking the project down into smaller, more manageable pieces for each team member to take ownership of, and then establish a realistic timeline for completion.
This will ensure that that every team member knows what he or she is responsible for and by when, and that no one person is overloaded while another is twiddling their thumbs.
You remember the game of telephone from when you were a kid and how the message at the end was never the same as when it started? Well, that’s exactly what happens when communication is lacking.
Even though your team may be really great at what they do, they’re not mind readers.
Avoid the chaos and confusion by keeping the lines of communication open. That goes for before the start of a new project and throughout the process as well. No one is going to know that you’re waiting on information from another team member if you don’t tell them, and the issues aren’t going to magically go away if you don’t discuss them.
Instead, keep your team on the same page with regular check-ins, and consider using an online instant messaging program such as Slack for real-time communication.
Lack of Management
You know how it goes.
Sam thought he was reporting to Joe who thought he was reporting to Mary who was working with a different team on an entirely separate project which was headed up by Rachel who has been out sick for the past three days.
Lack of management is where projects go to die, so if there is any initial confusion about who’s in charge of what and who each person should be reporting to, resolve that before starting the project.
You should also consider working with project management software such as Basecamp to get your team on the same page. This will allow you to view upcoming tasks, store files, and have discussions with other team members to make sure you’re all progressing according to plan.
Loss of Focus
Sometimes a project starts out on the right foot, but then starts meandering off in a million different directions.
To avoid this, establish some goals up front with your team and ask yourself the following questions:
- What are you hoping to achieve?
- What problems are you solving?
Having the answers to these questions upfront will set you up for a successful project.
So in short, when you’re starting a new project, get organized, keep the lines of communication open, and focus on the goal. If you do those things, your projects should go off without a hitch, and you’ll never have to worry about being Michael Scott.