For many companies, the beginning of a year signifies the start of new projects aimed at improving organisational efficiencies and ensuring business success.
Whether the expectation is better products, enhanced customer service or organisational growth, there is a need for a tangible plan – a list of action items that drive an organisation to achieve its goals. While hope is an important motivator to initiate change, and might define the goal, it should not be part of the project plan.
Let me explain.
At the highest level, every project, large or small, has the same three elements – a project team, a budget and a timeline. The project originates from a view or requirement to improve present circumstances. Along the way, the project team will need to meet certain objectives, within the budget and timeline, in order to ensure a successful outcome.
During the course of the project, there will be team meetings in which each member provides a status report of their tasks and speaks to their plan moving forward to ensure objectives are met. This is where it becomes apparent as to whether there is progress or a problem. Something that should raise a red flag is if those updates begin with “I hope to…”, for example “I hope to have end-user training completed in time for the software upgrade go-live”.
Hope is not a plan. Hope is a feeling, a wish, or a desire to improve the status quo. Hope alone won’t get the job done.
In order to ensure the success of a project, it is important to know the facts – what actions are being taken and within what time frame in order to reach the goal. Going back to the example, rather than hoping to have end-user training completed, the team member should have answers for the following questions:
- What is the plan to educate end-users?
- When is the training scheduled for?
- Why would this not be complete before the go-live date?
- How would incompletion of the training affect the overall outcome of the project?
The project manager would expect answers to these questions. Also, having answers to these questions will help the team to identify and address any gaps.
Hope as a plan often leads to an unsuccessful project. Furthermore, it finds the team unaware of where the breakdown occurred. After all, the team did everything right: they met regularly, gave status reports, met their budget and the go-live was completed. But the project was not a success.
Here’s why: projects don’t end at go-live. Success is measured by the change. Did the project have the desired affect or end result?
We should not “hope” the project goes well. We should be confident it is going to go well. So, view the change as a journey and set milestones to reach that guide the organisation toward the ultimate goal.
Hope is important and certainly has its place. But its place is not in the project plan itself.
By Monique Williams, Hyland Southern Africa Regional Manager