How to tackle a big project
As your goals grow and your projects begin to evolve, so too do the complexities of these projects. As a creative type, the first impulse might be to dive in – headfirst. Although a just-get-it-done approach is an excellent work ethic, the margin for error is enormous.
First, know that execution with no plan is a formula for disaster.
When I started this website, I had a vision. However, that vision required tasks that I alone couldn’t complete. As situations behind the scenes changed, the vision remained consistent. Knowing that I needed to proceed, yet unsure how I could accomplish such a huge undertaking alone left me a little unsure.
Actually, it was the plan of execution that needed adjustment. The vision is still very much alive.
Second, know that a plan with no flexibility could, and probably will, stunt your project’s growth.
I knew my destination was the same but my direction had to change to cement that vision, else it would be lost. That wasn’t an option. It still isn’t.
Third, know that adapting allows your vision to be realized.
It had to be adjusted, yet again. But this time, the cement was hardening – a concrete vision to be sure. As it turns out, that vision has become a living breathing entity that requires sustenance.
Fourth, know that the path to achieving anything is almost never linear.
Unable to paint an accurate picture of an ending that has yet to take place, I will say that in a few years time, there have been many set backs. But the vision remains, and continues to grow.
Finally, know that time spent planning, and sometimes re-planning, is time saved in execution, and ultimately increases the chances of reaching your goals.
So, how do you guarantee success of any project or goal? How do you guarantee your project is well received? How do you guarantee all project members will follow through? How do you guarantee that there will be no roadblocks?
Well, you can’t. We can’t predict the future and surprises are inevitable. But, you can create conditions to handle just about any challenge.
Whether you’re steering a ship or commanding a fleet, create a road map based on activities and decisions to eliminate any gaps of understanding or confusion. The best way to avoid massive problems is to create steps and processes focused on a common vision or concept. Here are five tips to enable better odds of a successful project.
1. Define your purpose (goals)
If the project goal is abstract, a ‘divide and conquer’ mindset isn’t plausible. We are not machines and can’t possibly know what to do without clearly understanding the destination. Ultimately, successful projects are built on a series of well-thought-out micro-decisions. Understanding the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ is the best way to utilize your expertise or the expertise project members.
You need to clarify your project’s goals to ensure your project remains aligned with its initial purpose. Provide as much context to the goal as possible. This isn’t a one-off task – you’ll have to ensure that the purpose remains clearly defined throughout.
2. Create processes to streamline changes and/or milestones
Roadblocks and direction changes are to be expected. The challenge lies in not being prepared. As you forge ahead, create ‘what if’ scenarios and communicate solutions to everyone involved. Think of these solutions as panic buttons. What will you do?
These scenarios could be as simple as the committee chair being ill for an extended period or as complex as not receiving the needed funding to proceed. Will the project die or will you create solutions beforehand to ensure it survives?
Furthermore, how will you and the team react to small wins? If a milestone is achieved, yay, but have you created a process to ease your project from one milestone to the next task set? How will you transition?
That’s why change needs to happen at the process level without rigidity. Be prepared to embrace the ever-changing landscape of any project.
3. Downtime is also important
If you are attempting a large project, likely you’re more bogged down in the details than you realize. Take a step back to re-energize and rejuvenate. If you’re buried under a ton of information, you need time to process. Pushing forward might seem appropriate, but productivity is actually decreased without sufficient downtime. Take a break, breathe, and give yourself time to consider where you’ve been to remember where you’re headed.
4. Create checkpoints
To avoid frustration, create mini goals or checkpoints. That sounds like a given, and it should be, but the just-get-it-done mindset sometimes forgets how important it is to create mini-projects within your larger project. Break the bigger picture into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Aside from making a large project more manageable, mini-goals make adjustment easier.
Monitoring the success of these milestones will create a global picture of what’s working and what isn’t, making your project easier to track. Look for multiple ways to track, measure, and report on the progress. Measuring at key intervals not only increases productivity but empowerment. You’re creating a visual of your progress and maintaining a clear understanding of your goals. You know if your project is on track and progressing.
5. Ask for help when you need it
Mistakes are scary — especially if the project involves something that’s important to you or your organization. As I said, we are not machines. Not one of us can do absolutely everything alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and empower project members to do the same. Is there a list of available experts or information in place for problem solving?
To avoid time-consuming mistakes and frankly to encourage innovation, create a network and/or system for you and/or your project team members. Increasing resources and learning materials results in better decision-making and, fewer mistakes along the way.
My wish is for all of your art projects, big and small, to succeed. This is a good starting point.
To your success.