The answer to the popular question above is, “one bite at a time”. The same applies to projects – whether a project is easy, challenging or overwhelming, the best shot at success is guaranteed by a “one bite at a time” approach. The advice of course is even more pertinent to projects that are tough. Project management does not come naturally to most people, especially if there’s no one breathing down one’s neck. Moreover, big projects that stretch over a period of several days and weeks may seem quite overwhelming in their entirety, which makes small action seems insignificant and hence feeds procrastination. So here’s how to attack and tame the beast in six easy steps.
Define objective – Lack of a defined objective is a major reason for deadline busts. Project managers who do not take the time to clearly define objectives do not set themselves and their team with a definite compass point. So people working on the project may not be sure about where the project is in reference to the deadline. So before you actually start working on the project, you should set time aside to discuss the project in detail with your CEO. It may also happen that the CEO himself is not sure about it. Don’t be surprised at that because it’s an all too common occurrence. Discussing the project with the CEO would not only give you a clear idea of what the end result should be like, but it would also make sure that you and your CEO are on the same wavelength. Thus you would avoid a situation where you deliver the project to find the CEO expressing disappointment as he had expected something different. After you are through with the project discussion, you should restate your impression to the CEO to ensure that he is on the same ground. An even better idea is to document the whole process and send it over to the CEO for agreement.
Establishing a system – After you’ve had a clear idea of what the result should be, you must establish a process that would take you to the desired end. Once again you should take the CEO into confidence and break down the project into a series of deliverables, establish a timeline and communication process. An extremely detailed timeline is not recommended because a number of unforeseen situations may creep up especially in long drawn out processes that may affect some of the deliverables, so it’s necessary to maintain flexibility in the process. All this is not necessary for projects that can be wrapped up in a day or two. After a detailed process has been set-up you should verify and finalize the same with the CEO.
Eating the elephant – Now that we are through with the planning process, it’s time to put the plan into motion or start eating the elephant one bite at a time. Ideally you should focus on completing one phase at a time. Set a deadline for the completion of the phase and deliver it to the CEO (if it’s possible to do so) before moving on to the next phase. Ideally each a project should be broken down in such a way that each phase should not take more than a day to complete, preferably, 3 to 4 hours. This way you will set up a system that will make you accountable and ensure that you do not fall into the procrastination trap. While working on a particular, you should not worry about the upcoming modules. Keep your focus on completing the work at hand.
Communication and Moving on – You should communicate regularly with the CEO, taking feedback after each delivery. This essentially means that you would be in touch with your CEO in a daily basis. This will not only ensure that you keep moving in the right direction and speed but will also keep your CEO secure in the knowledge that work on the project is moving smoothly and the way it was originally planned.
So once your initial planning and setting up of process is over you can keep repeating the next step till the completion of the project. That will be completing one phase, delivering it, taking feedback and then moving on to the next phase. If you keep up with this system you can rest assured that you will be able to eat even the biggest elephants easily!