You’ve chosen a project, made some tough decisions at an organizational level, and instituted a plan to monitor your efforts. Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and execute on your project.
Often, projects fail to deliver results because they are muddled in their conception. These efforts can become sprawling affairs disconnected from organizational priorities, ongoing labors without clear reasons to exist in the first place. This usually happens because an organization has failed to assign a scope to the project or continuously passed the buck on a given task from one department or individual to another.
By putting in the necessary work in the planning stages and choosing goals effectively, you can take steps to stop your project from going off the rails in this way. But as you start work in earnest, you’ll need to practice the basics of project execution.
Defining and testing success
When will your project be complete? What exactly are you striving for? It’s critical to define success early – and then to stress-test your goals. On a project with testable errors, will all of your identified goals be resolved once your errors hit zero percent? Or will you still have unaddressed issues?
This idea of defining your goals should have loomed large throughout your planning process, but it doesn’t stop being important once you get started. As you begin to execute, you must continuously ensure that your goals are the right goals to resolve pain points – and as you make progress, you may find that your definition of success has to evolve. Validate that your definition is on-point at every stage. And always make sure that you have the capacity and authority to do what you’re planning, so you don’t find yourself unexpectedly running into a wall.
Once your project is underway, there are a number of ways you can ensure progress – and ultimately, ensure results.
First, schedule regular project “waypoints” – stages of the project where you can check in to measure and demonstrate progress. The entire project’s waypoints don’t have to be mapped out in advance, but they should occur fairly regularly, and you should always schedule at least two waypoints in advance, constantly collecting data on your project execution and communicating it to stakeholders.
You should also identify project milestones. These are more significant stages of progress than waypoints – at a milestone, various aspects of your efforts should have come together to begin to realize your project. Milestones are essentially the stages of project execution that you will track your success against, using the metrics that you’ve identified previously.
By using quantifiable measurements, you can predict when you will reach each milestone by virtue of leading indicators rather than lagging indicators. And with this data, you will be able to manage team and stakeholder expectations properly. As you execute your project, data is absolutely key. Utilized correctly, it will spell the difference between frustration and results.