4 Questions to Guide Your Next Project

Nov 7, 2019, Written by Shelby Thomas

It’s hard to believe, but we are approaching the end of 2019. Every year is filled with wins and losses, lessons learned, and inspiration for the future.

At Crossroads, we’ve had one of our busiest years ever, which has brought new challenges along with its accomplishments. Things aren’t showing any signs of slowing down, so it has our team thinking about ways we can effectively execute the projects coming quickly down the pipeline.

My role is sort of a cross between a Project Manager and Designer, so I plan to wear a few hats in the upcoming months. Better get comfy. But perhaps the most important hat I’ll need to wear is the one with the little light on the front that lets you see clearly no matter your surroundings.

Without this light shining the way for the team, illuminating constraints and expectations, and identifying tools and resources, it would be hard to produce the amount of work needed with quality.

Before starting any new project, make sure you have answers to the following questions, keep them in the light, and return to them frequently when your team hits obstacles. A successful launch cannot happen without a strong foundation.

What is the purpose of the project?

Does your team clearly understand the WHY? As children, “because I said so” was engrained into our mind so frequently that we have to be careful to preserve our curiosity and enthusiasm when work demands creativity.

Trust me, “because I said so” definitely has its place (I have a 2 year-old). But if we want to avoid producing uninspired work like machines, we need to protect our time to think deeply about the goals of our projects and solutions for their problems.

Answering the WHY ignites the fire to get the problem-solving engine going. It’s important, whenever possible, to get buy in from all stakeholders for the project, and that includes getting everyone on the team and client on the same page about the purpose – the WHY.

Do I know who determines success?

Now that you have everyone on the same page about the purpose of the project, it’s time to gather your resources. Before moving on to anything else, you need to make sure you have the dedicated tools and resources to get the job done. Take a close look at the organizational structure for the project team, their capacity (both mental and physical), the timeframe, and if any outside resources will need to be procured.

The last thing you want is to agree to a deadline without having a firm understanding of your capabilities.

Have I clarified expectations and deliverables?

Once you have understood the scope of the project and gathered your resources, it’s to to plan for risk and scope creep. The expectations for the the project need to be clearly outlined, matched to the purpose, and agreed upon by all stakeholders.

This stage in initiating a project is paramount to its success both for the client and your team. Unexpected changes and new additions not only hold the project up, but can force your team off the initial path, leading to confusion and chaos. If chaos is introduced to one project, it’s difficult to keep it from spreading to others.

In today’s fast-paced society, the eagerness to start and finish without effective planning – without quality thought put in is rampant. Protect your team and project against chaos by clearly outlining expectations and deliverables before the project begins.

Do I know the project’s constraints?

This stage of the project I consider to be most fluid, and therefore requires constant attention. At the outset there are important limitations to identify such as budget, deadlines, available resources, etc.

However, certain constraints aren’t made aware at the beginning and decide to rear their ugly heads at seemingly the worst times. Examples such as the undependable nature of technology, unexpected costs, team absence, and Murphy’s Law have made themselves intimately familiar to me.

Clear answers to the first three questions will help prevent some of those constraints, but making time to frequently evaluate risk and setbacks is the antidote. In your weekly meetings, review these risks with your team and discuss solutions.

It’s easy to focus on the here and now, but project success will depend on the management and ability to dodge setbacks before they occur.

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Shelby Thomas

Shelby Thomas

As a Marketing Project Manager, Shelby's goal is to provide value for clients with results-driven solutions in website development, digital advertising, and traditional marketing collateral.