“We tried that, but it didn’t work”
“We had to stop that because it was taking too much time/money/resource”
“There were too many obstacles. It just became too hard”
If you’ve tried making improvements before and heard (or even said) any of the above, there’s a reasonable chance that the real reason it didn’t work was because the initiative right information wasn’t gathered, discussed, and agreed properly from the start. The time spent invested in a simple one page document, or “Project Charter”, will help you set yourself up for success. These are the key things to consider-
Problem/Opportunity and Outcome
Spend the most time defining what the problem is and what you want to achieve – two absolutely critical pieces of information. If you can’t articulate the problem simply, how can you hope to solve it? Similarly, if you don’t know what success looks like, how do you know when you’ve finished, or that what you’ve done has made any difference.
In and Out of Scope
It’s obviously important to know what you want to include but it’s equally important to know, and be explicit about, what will be excluded. There is a real danger of what’s called “scope creep”, which can quickly lead to blowing out the budget and timelines for the project.
Roles and responsibilitiesThe improvement won’t happen on its own. You need a team to carry out your project. How big the team is depends on the size of the task at hand. Without assigned roles and responsibilities, no one will know who is responsible and accountable. Common roles include a Sponsor, a Business Owner, a Project Lead, Subject Matter Experts, and Project Support. Often overlooked at this stage is the need to also identify Stakeholders; the people who need to be consulted on and informed about the project. Without the buy in of these people, implementation will inevitably encounter resistance.
This ties in with the roles and who needs to know what, when. Agree a comms plan at the beginning, and stick to it, and you’ll go a long way to gaining the buy in so important to success.
Document the key dates – the milestones and when you expect to hit them, all things being equal. Here’s a tip; it’s probably not the end of the world if these change a little. It’s unlikely you’ll have exact dates for each stage right at the beginning, but that doesn’t stop you taking a best guess to give everyone an idea of how you hope progress to be made.
Don’t underestimate the power of this one page document. It gets everyone on the same page, holds people accountable for their roles, and defines what success looks like. Above all, it ensures that you’ll never again hear the obstacles and objections at the beginning of this article.
For a free, no obligation discussion on how this, and other business improvement tools and processes can help you, get in touch with Ian.