4 Ways to Boost the Odds of Project Success

Your project teams’ ability to design, implement, and reinforce projects is critical to your organization’s success. However, the mere existence of skilled project managers isn’t enough to secure successful project outcomes. The entire enterprise must rethink, retool, and retrain its behaviors, expectations, and processes to boost project outcomes and bottom-line results.

While every project is different, there are vital components to every project that span industries, disciplines, and geographic locations. To boost the odds of project success, take the following four steps.

1. Set Clear Goals and Objectives

A project without a well-defined goal is destined to fail. You might accomplish some things, but without understanding your desired outcomes, there’s little to celebrate. Plus, initiating a project without purpose can result in damage to other areas of the business.

Put your project on the path toward success by first identifying the “why” driving your project team. Your organization’s marketing team may have conducted customer surveys that register declining satisfaction, for example. Yet your call center, despite record call volumes, may not have reported any obvious call drivers in its weekly reports. You need to learn what is causing the problem and implement the needed remedies.

As you embark on Project Customer Satisfaction, consider what drove you to call the first meeting and, together, determine what you aim to accomplish. Lead an open, free-flowing discussion, logging ideas on a whiteboard, digital or analog. Focus on documenting possible reasons for the problem, then once you’ve reached a lull, group these reasons to identify themes.

Compare these themes with your organization’s stated goals, mission, or vision. See where they match up, and use these intersections to identify a clear set of goals and objectives. Strive for strategic alignment, ensuring your project team’s function helps support the organization’s broader goals and objectives. Set achievable milestones, breaking down larger targets to smaller tactics, which can improve momentum and morale.

2. Root Your Project Plan in Research

Now that you’ve identified what you want to accomplish, it’s time to work backward. Your project team may be anxious to get started, especially since there’s a clear problem to solve. However, there’s good reason to dedicate time toward research, even if project timelines are tight.

Without data, projects are destined to fail due to insular thinking, misguided interpretation, and blind spots. Take your call center that’s currently being hammered with customer calls. Your team’s first assumption is that your website is missing key information. So your IT folks revamp the website experience, but the calls keep coming.

If your project team had reviewed existing data and pursued new information, they might have discovered something different. Customers may have been seeking reassurance that their purchase was on the way. If this was the case, a better shipment tracking process and customizable alerts would have improved satisfaction.

Without a full understanding of what’s behind the surface-level discomforts, your project is at risk for failure. Review past projects the organization has completed for takeaways, lessons learned, and baseline information. Scour project notes, as many good ideas get assigned to the project parking lot, never to be found again. Dig into your existing resources, pair them with today’s challenges, and build out a project plan supported by research. 

3. Establish a Communications Cadence

Projects don’t run themselves, people do, and people rely on communications to connect, inspire, and drive action. Improve the odds of your project’s successful completion and lasting results by establishing communications channels to support your efforts.

Set up a collaboration space on your company SharePoint or Slack where teams can streamline communications. Post project updates, files, and celebrate successes in one location.

Commit to an editorial calendar, where project leaders post weekly updates, share meeting minutes, and solicit input. Use social apps to pose questions, post jokes, and give shout-outs for great work. The more engaging you make your communications, the more likely team members will respond.

Your regular presence in the collaboration space will also naturally lend itself to long-term stakeholder participation. Plus, the digital nature of this type of site allows you to track content engagement. This feature can help you identify any gaps or lagging attention, so you can take appropriate steps. 

4. Identify and Plan for Risks and Their Resolution

Establishing a plan B may be second nature, but there’s more to good project management than identifying alternative solutions. Effective projects require a world-view of the risks, both internal and external, that could impact project goals.

First, identify the most obvious risks to your project, soliciting input across the project team and key stakeholders within the organization. Then, take your research outside, reviewing peers in your industry, research papers, and even headlines for key risk factors. Consider how other projects have been impacted by such factors, and compare them to your own.

Once you’ve identified potential risks, assess the human component involved with your project. Even if your initiative is massively technical, there are still human factors at play. Human error, resistance to change, and breaches in confidentiality all share a common theme: people. 

Simply knowing the risks doesn’t solve for them, but pre-devising potential solutions can help soften their blow. Use your research to guide your resolution plan for each identified risk, assigning team members to specific roles should the need arise. With a plan in place, your team will be poised to handle any shakeup while keeping your project on track.

Setting the Standard for Successful Projects

Your organization’s ability to launch, execute, and maintain the results of your projects is the deciding factor for success. Use project management best practices, historical results, and these tips to improve your project outcomes. Reserve time after a project is complete to assess and analyze the entire project lifecycle. Log key findings and integrate their lessons into your project management framework. With these principles and lessons learned, you’ll set the standard for effective project management and solidify long-term success.

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