Focusing on the Experience – Five Strategies to Enhance Project Success
Each year, as spring takes hold, I find myself mentally summarizing all the projects that I could or should be doing around the house. This spring, I decided it was indeed again time to get my house painted and I learned long ago that it’s not a task that I should be doing myself. My challenge was in selecting a painter to do a quality job at an acceptable cost within the timeframe that I had in mind. Trouble is – there’s no standard approach to navigating this search and contracting arrangement.
One contractor, with a good reputation, and after a quick walkabout, gave me an ‘all in’ verbal quote on the spot describing cost, timeframe and challenges that he saw in the work. Another surveyed the job and asked about my expectations for the job, saying she would do some estimates before providing the quote in a follow-up email.
The third painter, with a clip board in hand, took notes about the job, my concerns regarding specific ‘hot spots’ and preferences regarding timing for completion and clean up. He also talked about how he typically worked with his clients, how he communicated about problems or changes that might emerge, and how he planned to involve me in ongoing review of the work and ‘sign off’ at the end of the job.
Which one did I go with? The painter with the clipboard – because he talked about the ‘how’ of his relationship with me during the project, not just the ‘what’ concerning the job itself. Not only did his approach give me comfort with the likelihood of success but he, in essence, gave me an open invitation to share my thoughts and concerns as things moved forward.
This whole process reminds me that far too often, in our rush to deliver value to our colleagues, clients and stakeholders, we forget to check in with them about the ‘ride’ – how things are going as we move a project, initiative or key task forward. If we’re clear up front about our commitment to getting feedback and making adjustments as things move forward, and not just around the actual project deliverables, the better the chance we have in establishing a strong foundation for the relationship and in communicating in ways that ensure success.
As you consider your current projects and key initiatives – think about what you could share with colleagues, clients and shareholders, up front, about the ‘ride’ together that would strengthen your chances of success. Here are five key suggestions:
- Articulate the benefits of working together beyond actual project outcomes.
By outlining the ‘up-side’ of your work together (e.g. new insights, skill development), you’ll be providing additional reasons for the active involvement of your colleagues, clients and/or stakeholders in the project or initiative. Active involvement often turns into greater commitment to a successful outcome. This in turn encourages a more engaged relationship and improved communications.
- Identify how expectations will be identified and shared throughout the project.
Although you’ve already outlined key expectations around the project or initiative itself – be clear on how changing expectations, in terms of the relationship and the project ‘experience’, will be identified and discussed. This allows early attention to items that may go ‘off track’ so that they can be resolved before they become major strains on the relationship.
- Confirm how often you will touch base about the ‘ride’ and how committed you are to keeping folks informed.
Be clear on the how often you’ll seek feedback on the project experience and when this will actually occur. That way, your colleagues, clients and/or stakeholders will not be wondering if you’re going to leave this to chance encounter or wayward conversations.
- Clarify the kinds of things will you’ll talk about during your ‘check ins’ – communications, flexibility, responsiveness, etc.
Having some sense of the things that you’ll cover off in your initial feedback meetings is helpful, at least initially, to enable both you and your colleagues, clients and/or stakeholders to dig deeper into the experience. As time passes, you’ll get greater comfort in crafting this agenda in real time based on emerging priorities and issues.
- Agree on how success, in terms of the relationship and the experience, will be measured and evaluated.This piece is critical but often overlooked in the final evaluation process. Yes, the actual project deliverables may have very good metrics, but have you taken the time to determine how best to measure the experience of working with you from the perspective of your colleagues, clients and/or stakeholders? It’s this conversation that often determines current perception of project success as well as the likelihood of future opportunities to work together.
Putting emphasis on the ‘how’ you work together, as well as the ‘what’ you do together, clearly pays off in tangible far-reaching dividends when working with colleagues, clients and/or stakeholders on key projects and initiatives.