When you want to be organized on a project

We all do project work even at the highest levels. A business transformation, a key account pursuit, a merger, an acquisition, a new product launch, a technology roadmap…all of these are projects at their core and involve execution after the strategy is decided.

It’s in the execution where I have experienced many miscommunications and missteps. Execution takes a lot of work to get right and requires a detailed brain at times or at least an organized brain. I do not consider myself detail-oriented but many people have referred to me as organized and logical. Perhaps.

But, the reason I appear organized is because I do follow three steps:

  1. Take time to think about the objectives, what needs to be done, who should do it and by when
  2. Write it all down (including objectives!!)
  3. Share it with the team and meet on it regularly

Some of you may be rolling your eyes and thinking…that’s it?! Yes. This seems so simple and it can be. But, as I have learned over my career, despite what my college English professor says, simple and easy do NOT mean the same thing.

It is simple and yet so many people don’t follow these three steps on project work. Without thinking and documenting, you float from one week to the next hoping and assuming everyone knows what to do and work will get done.

I have been a part of these projects throughout my entire career in HR especially. One in particular stands out to me. My manager was leading a very strategic project sponsored by the CEO of the business but he never believed in thinking about and documenting the project to ensure we all understood objectives, the work, and who was responsible for what.

He only had verbal conversations with each team member separately, never together, and forwarded random emails from senior leaders throwing in their two cents on the project. With these disjointed bits, everyone was supposed to know what to do and by when and be successful. Impossible.

I managed up in this situation and told him that I would lean in and document and lead the team in project meetings. He agreed and we had tons more clarity on the work and started to produce.

Sometimes, people believe documenting and holding status meetings take too much time. They think project plans are too complicated and don’t add value. “Just go do it.” In fact, without documentation and status meetings, it will take more time, create more frustration and lead to disaster, not success.

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