There’s often a lot of energy at the beginning of a project. Discussions are frequent and intense, with everyone from senior management to front-line staff engaged. The project is talked about ad nauseum, it seems. Momentum builds. Everyone is anxious to get started. Everyone is sick of talking and ready for action.
It’s very tempting to get things underway and start making progress at this point. The objectives are clear, resources have been allocated, and everyone’s attention is focused.
Adding one more step to the process, however, can make a huge difference in the outcome – memorialize everyone’s understanding of the project before you begin.
Write down what you understand the objectives to be, the resources that are being allocated, and the project timeline. Identify risks that threaten this plan, and state the factors that will be critical to a successful project. Create a short narrative about the key strategies of the approach. Show this document to everyone.
With all of this fresh on everyone’s mind, evaluating this document should prove to be quick and easy – though don’t be surprised to find that you’re clarifying significant misunderstandings as you move through this final review. (It’s amazing how different people in the same meetings can hear and interpret things differently.)
Now you have a solid basis for proceeding. And you’ve documented all the key elements for reference in the future – which is only a short time away. Once everyone’s attention is diverted to planning the next big thing, the details and nuances of the discussions of your project are quickly forgotten. And once you’re in project execution mode, having the document you just created–which has captured everyone’s input and has everyone’s explicit or implicit approval–will be very helpful as you run into issues and need to adjust your plans. Helping everyone remember the who, what, where, why, and how this whole thing got started can really help you to re-engage everyone when things go off track and decisions need to be made.
Photo credit: Aunt Owwee