Entrepreneurs typically have no trouble conjuring grand visions. However, when it comes to actually translating these large projects into actionable steps and garnering the motivation and skills of an empowered team, many come up against difficulties. Picture your own great ideas, and then try to imagine each minute detail, task, and role required to execute it, and then how you will stick to targets and measure your success.
Then consider this great challenge under the pressure of a startup climate: with a smaller team, fewer resources and frequently ad-hoc processes that have not yet been fully defined. Executing a large project in accordance with necessary deadlines, budgets and goals under these strained conditions can seem almost impossible.
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In fact, statistics point to a majority failure in achieving the initial target. According to Standish Group, less than a third of all projects were successfully completed on time, and on budget over the past year.
A multitude of great tools exist today to aid leaders in effective project management, for improved levels of productivity. However without commitment from leadership, and buy-in from the whole team, these tools simply add to the noise and do nothing to reduce the risk of failure.
Reportedly 33% of projects fail due to lack of involvement from senior management. Leaders who communicate their vision, set defined milestones and empower their team put themselves and their company in good stead for success.
Startup founders share their top pieces of advice for successful project execution – split into 6 nice and simple, digestible steps!
1. Paint a shared vision.
“A well-structured and prioritized plan to be shared with all team members working on the project is essential. It is important to create a shared vision, with tangible outcomes, so that each individual understands how he or she will contribute to a final product and shared success. Activities can then be broken down into work streams and delegated to the relevant persons, who should own the process.
At Alif Baa we give frequent updates make sure a project is on track and is executed to the highest level. Team members maintain close relationships through regular communications and face to face meetings, which helps keep team members motivated and focused on the task at hand. The key to managing any large scale project is ensuring a precise plan so that everyone can manage their time for effective project execution.”
- Javed Hussain, Alif Baa
2. Meticulous, repeatable processes.
“One of the biggest drivers of success for any large project is the team. One of the biggest reasons for failure of large projects is over-dependence on individuals. Project management is a collaborative process. The highest efficiency of the team is no more than the least efficient member of the team. To manage this efficiency, you need early warning systems.
The one major lesson that my experience as PM Competency Executive for IBM taught me is that you need meticulous, repeatable processes, control points and alert systems. I have used the MIRACLE (Milestones, Issues, Risks, Assets, Communication, Learning, Expenses) framework as an effective tool to manage and drive the team towards success. This allows teams to extract nformation from data, and execute actionable steps, without getting distracted. For some, especially in startup phase, this might feel like a lot of rule setting for limited returns. However, in the long run, these secure and efficient processes help avoid lost opportunity, missed deadlines and costly mistakes, and will help set you up to hit your targets from the start.”
- Alok Sinha, Globus Eight Inc
3. Small, digestible pieces.
“The best strategy for executing large projects is to break them into small steps. At foc.us we have had a brain reading device in development for over two years. By incrementally executing small chunks, we have been able to turn a complex idea into a tangible product ready for market. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
- Michael Oxley, foc.us
4. Eliminate unnecessary steps.
“At Kout we use something called the ‘critical path strategy.’ Basically, we set a goal, which could be a monthly revenue threshold we want to hit, or a quarterly number of sales contracts. We then work backwards to brainstorm all steps necessary to reach this goal – a path. Then, we eliminate all the steps that are not absolutely necessary – I can’t stress enough the absolutely! This gives us the critical path made of core elements which need to be completed to guarantee success. The entire team is made aware of the critical path and makes decisions as follows: if it is on the critical path, do it now. If it isn’t, don’t do it!
- Samuel Huber, Kout
5. Learn from every mistake.
“You cannot wing a project as complex as whole home automation. It’s all about developing a detailed process, and assigning it like a template to each new job. Every mistake we make and every obstacle we overcome informs these templates, the ultimate goal being to maintain a proactive rather than reactive position throughout the entire project. While we celebrate successful projects, we don’t shy away from our mistakes. We learn from them and make our processes better.”
- Jordan Wills, Cloud9 Smarthome
6. Compliment great organization with online tools.
“I think it’s essential for large projects that someone (usually the CEO) sets the overall vision and then is responsible for ensuring the team delivers. To compliment this strategy, we use software such as Jira, Asana, Google Docs, and Slack. It’s easy for collaboration tools to slide towards confusion, so I think a quick standup meeting every morning to get people on the same page is still the best method for keeping projects moving forward. To measure success, you must decide from the outset what success looks like, whether it’s a specific metric or a product delivery, and the timeline for hitting it.”
- Cameron McLain, BeeHive
“We use Trello, along with good old fashioned pen and paper. Track everything!”
Avi Rubin, IronLionSoap