Success is based on strategies actually enacted, plans actually realized, projects actually executed. In order to finish what you have started, you need to adapt your mindset from 'thinker and planner' to 'mover and shaker'. Here you will receive practical tips on how to achieve this goal. Your personal goal is to make a difference and to do something that matters.
You want to be known for:
• successfully executing projects in the face of resistance
• achieving lasting results and long-term effects
• accomplishing your strategic objectives.
This implies physically moving and doing things that move the project forward towards completion. This a skill that can be learned. Learn to do it even more effectively than you are doing it now.
Develop Your Storyboard
Think of the projects as the basis for a movie. You start by developing a concept on how the story will unfold. You write the film script. You are also the director who guides and coaches the actors. Your company is the producer providing the money. The lead players are you, your colleagues, opinion leaders, and so on. The supporting cast is made up of consultants, agency people and others.
Keep your own personal timelines, also called deadlines. 'Timing is everything.' That is the motto of the 'Gatwick Express', the train running between Gatwick Airport and Victoria Railway Station in London. Make it also your motto. It is essential that the activities of your action plan are implemented on time.
Some software companies offer sophisticated project management support software packages. You may use them to produce detailed plans and nice flow charts on your computer screen and on paper. I personally never needed them. Remember, it's always people who get the job done.
Sequence of Events
Make the right things happen at the right time. The correct sequence of events is essential. Plan your activities in the logical order. Just as you have to add ingredients like sugar, flour and water in the right sequence in order to bake a cake, you need to plan the proper schedule of events in order to implement your plans successfully. Otherwise you will end up with a mess.
It all starts with the action plan: Develop a logical, coherent and consistent action plan. This plan should organize the work flow. Make it short, one or two pages at the most. Long action plans usually never get implemented. Observe the sequence of events. Make sure you specify who will do what until when. Develop the plan with your team. Ask team members what they think are reasonable timelines. You are looking for their buy-in. If you can accommodate the dates they suggest in your overall project schedule, do so. Otherwise explain why an earlier deadline is needed.
Communicate Your Deadlines
A deadline is the latest date by which some task must be completed. Hint: You won't get things done, until you set a deadline. You need to communicate the importance of your deadlines very distinctly to all involved. In other words: Make clear that you take deadlines seriously.
Update Your Plan
Update your action plan regularly: Make your timelines very visible by sharing them with all team members and stake holders on a regular basis. All of them should be familiar with the project schedule.
Distribute the most recent action plan electronically. Sometimes a hard copy might also be useful, because deadlines printed in black and white on paler seem to have more impact than those displayed electronically on a computer screen.
Keep the project moving forward and monitor performance. Continuously assess the progress of your project. Ensure regular tracking and follow-up. Remember: What gets measured, gets done. One senior executive once asked a project manager 'How did this project get ten weeks behind schedule?' The answer 'One day at a time'. Do not postpone, delay, put off or defer timelines, unless absolutely necessary.
Conduct short meetings: You need to schedule and hold regular project review meetings. Establish a rhythm, so that people know in advance when their progress will be judged. For example, you might invite your team members to regular Monday morning meetings. During these meetings you may want to ask a selection of the following questions:
• Are we on schedule?
• Is our project on track?
• Do we keep the course?
• Do we observe the timelines?
If necessary, remind people of pending deadlines.
Find a "Project Coordinator" or "Deadline Fanatic" as a response to the following questions: Who will invite team members to these regular review meetings? Who is the guardian of the project time lines? You need someone who assumes the role of 'chief scheduler' and who diligently tracks project progress from day-to-day. This coordinator checks whether people actually implement the plan on time. If not, he or she will remind people and help them to avoid procrastination. This is an important and demanding role.
The best people for this job are persons who are good completers or known finishers, those with an edge for detail, who like to see things through. Do you wish to assume that role yourself? Or can you think of someone suitable in the team? Or do you wish to talk to your boss about a possible candidate?
Make sure you hold people accountable. Ensure personal responsibility. Reward those who keep to deadlines. Give them credit. Show that you care and that you appreciate their reliability. Recognize their efforts towards achieving a common goal.
Do not tolerate people who frequently overrun their deadlines. Admonish them. You may not have the formal authority over team members who miss their deadlines. So you need to sit down with that person.
Emphasize that time discipline is essential to the team's success. Point out the consequences of the overrun and explain why this might jeopardize the overall project success. Try to find a solution. If the two of you cannot work out a way forward, initiate a joint conversation with that person's boss. In other words do everything possible to ensure that your project is running on time.
You will find more tips , tools, checklists and templates at: www.umbachpartner.com
James Dillon and Günter Umbach during an Interview in Paris, France: