You’re Managing You’re Key Initiatives DIFFERENTLY Than Your Projects Right?
There’s one absolutely key difference to managing your big initiatives, strategic goals or whatever else you might call them… from how you manage projects in ManagePro. If you are not sure what the difference is, e.g. if it doesn’t immediately come to mind, stop for a 90 seconds and consider what I’ve got for you below.
Here’s how I think about projects and project management. They are rooted and grounded in definitions. To be successful you need to Define or Specify (to name a few):
- Stakeholder expectations
- Your project plan or steps
- The budget and resource requirements
- Your methodology
- Your outcome metrics, etc.
Sounds familiar, right? I’m sure you use something like this in ManagePro and your project plans may look like an orderly nice work flow breakdown… or maybe not, but that’s another topic. Ok, back on topic. Projects are what we do to accomplish the familiar or modifications of the familiar. Guess what, those definitions all take a back seat to what’s most important when it comes to successfully managing key initiatives. Let me give you the key concept when it comes to being successful with initiatives…
Now that I wrote that, perhaps you’re wondering “Why is that so critical?” Let me explain by giving you a couple of word pictures about how to think about key initiatives and why it’s so important:
- Key initiatives are more like the “Lewis & Clark” adventure where you have an objective and a plan and some resources, but on some level you have only a limited (or no) idea what you’re going to run into. This is entirely different than writing that next piece of code, manufacturing a widget to new specifications or processing that stack of tasks on one’s desk. The key point I want to make is we don’t know a lot of stuff when embarking on key initiatives.
- So if key initiatives are on some level a step into the partially unknown, what do we take with us to manage the unknowns? Well we take some planning and some resources, but the elephant in the room is that we take along ASSUMPTIONS – whether we admit them or not. We use assumptions to manage the unknown. Lewis and Clark had their fair share of assumptions, including that a water way existed that went all the way to the Pacific from the mid-West. It didn’t quite work out that way, did it?
So let me repeat the key concept I want you to get when using ManagePro and working your top level initiatives.
Validating Assumptions (and the resulting iterations) is the key to your success at accomplishing key initiatives!
Got it? So how do you manage or validate assumptions? Let me give you a couple of examples in the workplace:
- Lean manufacturing would say you manage assumptions by investing in or building out the “Minimum Viable Product.” The MVP has, of course, your assumptions about what customers will buy embedded in it, and then you get that product to market to validate whether or not customers feel as good as you do about the product… before you continue investing any more resources in its current development trajectory.
- Stanford University would say that you engage in “Design Thinking”. That is, you start with your best understanding of the problems to be solved and then create prototypes that you can take to the field and test with actual users or customers, and then iterate (design and build) from there to refine your approach to solving the problem.
The bottom line is that key initiatives have a closet full of embedded assumptions (I try to list them within the record details in ManagePro). You can smooth over them (often seen as pontificating), by citing past experience or individual expertise, but if you really want to be successful at key initiatives, validate your assumptions – regularly. Here’s a couple of steps I use consistently, regardless of the initiative:
- Validate your assumptions about how compelling the problem is that your initiative intends to solve – that is, validate it with the intended target group (not your fellow team members in the office). Would the target group actually pay money to have this problem solved today?
- Validate your assumptions about your plan’s efficacy and approach by comparing it directly to known issues and obstacles and ask “Why is this going to solve or get past those issues?” Really?
- Validate your assumptions about progress, about the value of the next step, the next feature, the next iteration. Do it by testing with your target group and/or measurement based upon your key deliverable metrics.
Have fun validating and iterating, it will develop your ability to listen and be creative, not to mention make you a lot more successful at accomplishing the big items.