Beginnings are important in business. It might be the start of a new calendar year, a new financial year or the launch of a new project or initiative. Often we get straight into the launch and problems arise. Those we didn’t anticipate are particularly annoying. We may not be able to eliminate all the issues associated with initiatives, but we can always do a better job in the pre-launch phase.
Here are three handy questions to contemplate in the early planning stage, as you toss around some ideas for the next big thing:
1. Are your team members ready?
Everyone is usually busy and many feel "I am busy enough already thank you very much!". Their attitude to doing more may be negative and resistant. Just dropping another new project into their laps, may not garner the commitment we need to see the task completed, in the time frame and within the budget.
You personally may be highly motivated, mainly because it is your idea and you have a really strong grasp of the WHY behind the initiative. The rest of the team may just view this as more work, relegated to the same level of importance of all the other things they are already doing. Our communication skills become important at this point. We need to be persuasive around the vision we have of a better future for the team and the enterprise. We need to be clear what we are going to do and not going to do in this project – our mission needs to be defined and separated from the other work already underway.
There is a clear objective in your mind but does the team share the same clarity around what we are trying to achieve. Leader’s presumptions are often the killer of successful outcomes. The WHY and none of the when, where, what and how needs to be the starting point. "Of course they know the WHY", are fatal words that can come back to haunt us when the project tanks and the outcomes are not achieved.
2. Are the team members willing to put in the time and effort?
"They get paid to be willing and able, don’t they?". True, but that assumption and expectation are not enough. We want self-motivation, ownership, self-accountability, delegation and self-leadership. Staff will not automatically exhibit the behaviours that show a willingness to go the extra mile to get this done or the fortitude to keep going when things get tough. We need to anticipate that competing priorities will cloud the issues.
Staff will only step up because they have been convinced of the urgency and priority of these tasks. The big picture has been boiled down to some micro tasks that are prerequisites for successful outcomes. That requires arousing enthusiasm in the team to embrace change. Few people want to change, mainly because we are dug deep into our foxhole of our Comfort Zone. Enticing people to step out into the world of the new and risky, needs extra effort to communicate the better future. So we must dedicate the time to explain and also to check for understanding, buy-in and enthusiasm.
3. Are the team able to succeed?
Do they have the resources? Often, our busy time is the most valuable resource and we are miserly in providing it, because we are so overwhelmed by what we are trying to cover off. We mistake dumping for delegation and then wonder why things go wrong. We need to factor our leader time into the equation from the start and make staff access available.
Is there any special training to bolster skill sets to ensure the task gets completed correctly. Are the internal barriers to cooperation with other groups cleared in readiness? Are there any logistical elements like equipment or space that need to be proffered so the project glides along smoothly. Has decision-making power been pushed far enough down the line to make sure the team members are feeling empowered to run this themselves?
Picking apart failure is no fun and feels like a burden. Better to dedicate some time for hard thinking at the start, rather than hard thinking at the end about where everything went wrong.