How realistic are your project plans? Be honest! Have you ever encountered a single project which has run smoothly from start to finish without any need for reappraisal along the way? Budgetary considerations, scope creep, changes in personnel, internal and external factors can all threaten even the best researched and most tightly scripted projects.
To be quite honest, it’s actually a good thing if project planners build a measure of checking and reappraisal time into their plans. Whilst there is a danger that too much checking can simply lead you around in circles as you try to second guess yourself, by refusing to consider and build in additional factors as they arise you can easily finish up with a project which is far less than it might otherwise have been.
Of course, there are projects which almost seemed doomed before they start. The transfer of data from a legacy computer system which has undergone so many workarounds that no one really understands it any more; the move into a marketplace which is so dominated by one organisation that the thought of re-defining parameters seems almost inconceivable; or the transforming of a culture which has become so toxic that it has infused every action and interaction within the organisation.
All these and more require not just technical knowledge and ability but also a level of understanding and determination which sees the potential to be gained from seismic activity. So when the data is transferred or the culture is changed, it could revolutionise customer interactions and experience; and when fresh thinking is brought to the marketplace then the potential for future development is virtually limitless.
But success depends on leadership. I’m not talking about the sort of leadership that plans, sticks pins in maps and then issues orders from way behind the lines. I’m talking about true leaders who engage hearts as much as minds, who understand motivation and empowerment, and who can shape and share the vision in a way in which transforms outlook and belief and behaviours. It’s one reason why in our book Building a Culture of Innovation we emphasise the importance not only of leaders assimilating the ideas themselves before they attempt to transform the culture across the organisation, but also of ensuring that they take time to overcome barriers to change and to engage their people in the transformation.
It doesn’t matter what the project is or how large the organisation. When leaders ensure that they not only plan properly but also take time to communicate and carry their people along with them then the inconceivable can become the eminently doable. Of course you still may have to reappraise and realign the project along the way but if you can’t be flexible then you are never going to produce the sort of innovative solutions which will make you stand out in today’s innovative world.