Starting April 6th and ending June 1st (less than two months’ time), our company will have rolled out three major initiatives. These are not just so-so, middle-of-the-road initiatives. We are talking about the transition of our largest acquisition ever, the addition of a major new product line to our company and the adoption of a new back-end computing system. Never in my 20+ years at the company have we ever come close to pulling off so many big projects in such a brief period of time!
As I think about it, I often wonder, “How can we actually pull this off?” Then, I begin to put my thoughts in order and it becomes clear that there are several very important takeaways here.
Nothing is More Important than Planning – This one is obvious, but it must be noted. Not only should there be a thoughtful plan in writing that addresses the key steps required by each area of the company (IT, Accounting, Marketing, Sales, etc), but each line item should be assigned to a responsible party, given a priority, and a due date should also be indicated. Finally, the plan should be communicated BEFORE and DURING the process.
Great People Step Up in Tough Times – In times like these, companies need some ‘Go To’ people. The definition of a ‘Go To’ person is one who can identify a need, create a plan and then execute that plan. Not everyone can do this. In fact, not very many people can do this. We are blessed at Eakes to have a high number of them. As a management team, the only way we knew we could successfully execute all three major initiatives at once is because we believe we have so many people that perform at unusually elevated levels.
Breathe – Stressful times mixed with very productive people can create big time stress. The company needs to be sure to build out a little time for each player to breathe a little… to get away from the projects… to get their mind off the constant urge to finish the job. Not only will the time away help to ease the stress, but often great ideas come when you are not thinking about the outcome.
Communicate – For each project, a weekly meeting should be held with all the players. The overall game plan is to have the responsible party review the status of each of their line items. The meetings should be kept to one hour and it is critical that every key player attends so everyone is on board with the plan in its entirety.
Focus on the Priorities – Just before “D-Day” – the day the conversion happens – the stress will be highest. People will be saddled with too many items to do and not enough time to do them. It is now that focusing on priorities is most critical. You have your plan, and in it, the priorities are defined. The team must encourage one another to take the priority items out first, as there will be enough ‘must do’ distractions on low level items without intentionally taking on more. As the big items get done, the entire team will find that the rest of the items can wait and the project will still be successful.
Celebrate – After all the planning, executing and finally the success, it is important to celebrate. Sometimes a ‘Thank You’ is enough. Sometimes a pizza lunch during the conversion day really helps. And, maybe a true celebration a month or so after the project is just the ticket. Regardless of how you do it, it really is important to celebrate the magnificent work that the team has done.
Project work is hard work, but using my takeaways above, it can be tremendously rewarding for employees and super beneficial to the company.