A basic understanding of project management can be a tremendous advantage in successful achievement of business goals and initiatives. These include the answers to these questions:
- Why is this project being pursued?
- What is its desired outcome?
- Who will be involved in the project?
- How will the project be done, including the specific essential actions to complete the project?
- When will the project need to be completed, including the deadlines for actions and/or milestones?
- Where will the project and essential actions take place?
When your name appears as the answer to “who is responsible,” the rubber needs to hit the road. If you are fortunate enough to be a key player in only one or two projects, using the basic project planning template above is generally sufficient to assure effective action. However, when multiple projects converge on an individual, more help is needed to juggle all the balls.
Most of us have not only the demands of business, but also family life, community and/or church responsibilities, as well as personal aspirations or avocations. In my own life, it is not unusual to have between ten and twenty-five projects underway at any point in time.
Does this sound familiar? For most of my friends, family, and clients, it’s the norm! While each project can be planned using my simple template, the challenge comes in planning the specific actions to be taken from each project within an immediate time horizon, say one week.
Here’s the approach I recommend. Review your projects—all of them—each Friday or Saturday. Then, looking at the upcoming week, list each major life category. For me, those are Business, Family, Church, and Personal. Use these as column headings, under which you will list the actions from your various project plans that need to be accomplished during the week. Here’s an example from my life:
- Coordinate upcoming CEO Forum: Finalize room prep, AV, and guest count
- Coaching Session w/AB: Review notes, prep comments on positon descriptions
- Write article for The Enterprise: outline, 1st draft, send to editor
- Consulting engagement with XYZ Corp: follow-up on client actions
- Strategic Planning: Prep board agenda
- Study business book: Multipliers
- Date with wife: Friday evening
- Jog with daughter: Daily
- Yardwork: Saturday
- Family Dinner: Sunday Evening
- Play with Grandkids: Sunday Evening
- Executive Meetings: Prep agendas for Sunday. Attend.
- Interviews: Tuesday evening
- Service Project: Saturday
- Study scripture: Daily
- Prayer: Daily
- Study history: WWII
- Exercise: Daily except Sunday
- Manage diet: Daily
Using this list, I populate my day-planner (now on my smartphone) for the next seven days. Often I have to add a handful of activities that aren’t part of any project, such as a dental appointment, taking care of bank deposits, or buying business supplies. Although these may not be central to any project listed, they are still important. The key here is to get all activities scheduled. If they aren’t scheduled, the odds are, they won’t get done!
One of the challenges inherent in this ground-level planning is that one or more activities will take more time than allocated. While this can be frustrating, I’ve discovered that I still accomplish more using this weekly planning technique than if I just “wing it.”
From my experience, there are two downsides to winging it. First, when functioning as a Winger, I tend to throw myself into a project, ignoring everything else. When I emerge from that project, it’s like coming up for air from swimming strenuously under water. I gasp for air and am initially disoriented. Having had a myopic, singular focus, I have to pause to assess “what’s next.” These pauses can sometimes be long and disruptive to moving forward. On the other hand, if I’ve prepared my weekly action plan and schedule, I can immediately see where I am—and what I need to do. Although there may be some carry-over items from week-to-week, I have the advantage of being right on top of those items.
The second downside of winging it is that I am more likely to neglect the two life categories that are easiest to eliminate: Family and Personal. While these areas may still suffer some curtailment in favor of Business or Church, they are on my weekly activity list and day-planner each and every week, reminding me that children and grandchildren grow up and that my health, spirituality, and intellect will fail if I neglect them.
Woody Allen is quoted as saying, “80% of success is showing up.” By translating your various projects into a weekly action plan and schedule, you’ll not only show up, you’ll get far more done every week. Over time, those productive weeks will translate into months of projects achieved and strategies fulfilled.
Richard Tyson is the founder, principal owner and president of CEObuilder, which provides forums for consulting and coaching to executives in small businesses.
Ground-Level Planning: A Prescription for Weekly Project-Based Action by Richard H. Tyson
Business, Competency, Engagement, Vision