You know the old story of the barefoot shoemaker’s kids, right? Well, that old adage can be applied to many a small to medium sized business. It is all-consuming to meet the needs of your clients, pay the bills, do payroll, create, create, create. Pulling off a big business project on top of that can seem overwhelming, and maybe even impossible.
How many of you have put off that all important task of redesigning your website, remodeling your office, paving the parking lot, freshening your logo or the sign out front? You are not alone. Our company struggles with these issues, too.
Issues that kept us from doing a much-needed web design / redesign process:
- Finding the time
- Finding the inspiration
- Dealing with the disruption
Do any of these strike a chord with you?
Isn’t it hard to gear up for major change, when you feel like you are already maxed out?
These are real business issues, and not just an excuse to procrastinate.
Learning from history, lest we repeat it…
Every so often, we have a lull between big client projects. Having watched the ebb and flow of our web development business for a couple of decades, we have learned that a lull isn’t a bad thing. It is a blessing. So, we created an internal pact: “The next time we have a lull, we need to work on OUR
And so it began. But not without memories of the last time we pulled this off. That big project was to make our website responsive. Up until then, we had not had to deal with a revolutionary change in web standards.
The struggle is real, folks. I remember living off of Vitamin B, too many cups of coffee, bottled water, nuts, fruit, (and antacids, from time to time). It felt like I didn’t even have time to clear one snack off my desk, before I stumbled in with the next. My team was here too, all hours, coding lines and lines and lines of CSS. Struggling, sometimes, to get our new responsive website to look perfect on mobile devices.
Since then, we have had time to process that experience, and we learned that pulling off a big business project can be done without as much stress, if done correctly.
Pulling off a Big Business Project – 5 Survival Tips
#1: Identify a Good Project Manager
Having someone at the helm handling key decisions is crucial. This person must be both a big picture thinker, as well as someone who can understand and delegate the minutia. They must be able to telescope in and out of the project without getting mired in it.
They must also be a people handler. There are a lot of egos involved in a large project, and someone who is deft at bringing people together, and promote team work, is a must.
Understand the Scope of the Project
- Write down the scope of the project. It will help you understand what will, and will not, be part of the project.
- Up front, you can identify some areas where project creep will happen, so you can ward that off before it happens.
- It will also give you the opportunity to change the scope, once you are able to see it in black and white.
This gives you a chance to understand the areas that will cause the most stress, so you can build in appropriate stress relief. Knowing you can handle the project, before it even starts, it critical to success. It is often the ‘unkown’ that causes the most stress. If you are still feeling stressed, here are 5 business stress management techniques.
Break the Project Down Into Parts
Dividing the project into doable chunks, allows for even more stress relief. The adage about eating the elephant one bite at a time comes to mind. If you are seeking approval for the project, it can help you get it, if you have a project plan that includes a breakdown of the different stages of the project. This allows the project to be funded one section at a time, and also diverts distraction, by dividing the attention of team members across small portions of the project. This way it is possible to continue to run your business, while also doing a large internal project.
Identify Key Players
Now that you fully understand the nature of your business project, match the strengths of your team members with the needs of the project. There is a lot less stress, and better morale, when people are doing tasks within their strengths, rather than their weaknesses. It also helps the project go faster.
Create Milestones & Deadlines
One of the biggest killers of creativity is deadlines. That is why milestones are better. Milestones are check-in points, that keep a project on track. Not meeting a milestone may mean that project creep has occurred, or that team members were not able to devote as much time to their part of the project, or that the scope of the project was bigger than first realized. Milestones give you the opportunity to revamp the scope, the time line, or even assign different people to tasks.
Milestones can be motivating. Team members can compete to get things done on time and it keeps the end goal of the project in mind. On the other hand, inaccurate updates on how projects are faring are the reason many don’t turn out as expected, MIT research suggests. The misreporting of project statuses, at all levels of the company, is often to blame for big business projects failing or ballooning in cost, according to a study published in MIT’s Sloan Management Review.
Let’s face it. People hate to give bad news. Covering up and overlooking failure at the milestone level, only leads to big disappointment at, or before, the end. What if you run out of money to finish the project before it is done? What if your business is so distracted by a protracted project that it fails to meet it’s main goal of great customer service?
Keep your project on track, and continue to audit the project through to completion.
Eventually, as you near the end of the project, you will be able to establish a hard deadline. We realize that large companies cannot always stand by our motto, “anything worth doing, is worth doing well.” They run on deadlines, and often the final result shows that deadlines are not worth the lack of creativity. Balancing creativity and deadlines is a worthy cause.
Are you pulling off a big business project? We would love to hear about it, below.