Yann’s PowerTweets on success.

In the past few years, I have been advocating for increasing productivity and embracing imperfection.

For those that know me you know I am not a big writer and my schedule is fairly busy. Yet I have several articles in draft and need to be polished. I took the decision to just go ahead and change the format I will be publishing my knowledge.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn where I will be posting on a daily basis a series of PowerTweet at 7:30am.

The road to success is imperfect.

Your project is an investment, treat it with great respect.

When starting a new project, many people make the mistake of not only defining the wrong goals, but also don’t analyze the potential outcome. It’s understandable, since it’s much more exciting and rewarding to go and start implementing a cool project than talk about what could happen. However, it’s much wiser to fully understand what can happen in case something goes wrong. A person that took the time to do the exercise will take all the necessary precautions to prevent bad things from happening.

In Quebec, we have what is called the RRSP season. Most people visit their bank and talk to their financial advisor regarding retirement investments. A good financial advisor will take the time to ask a few questions that will help them identify their ability to take risks. For example, a few month ago, I wanted to make an important personal investment. Before suggesting a solution, my advisor asked me: “What happens if you lose all this money? How will you feel? Will it be the end of the world?” Today, I am glad I haven’t invested in gold back then. For those who are not aware, gold lost about 44% of its value since September 2011.

If your advisor didn’t ask you these questions, I suggest that you move all your investments elsewhere. Your advisor does not have your best interest in mind.

Your IT project is an investment too, and you should threat it with the same respect. Since you and your team will spend multiple weeks discussing and implementing the project, everyone on board should see it as a personal investment. A great way to do that is to imagine all the great things you could accomplish with that time or money. You could spend that money on a vacation or invest it in your retirement plan. You could spend all that time with your family, on your favorite hobby, sport, vacation or you can spend it on this project.

Seeing it as an investment helps put things in perspective. Make sure everyone in your team understands this concept. Doing so will translate into higher commitment, higher quality, efficient solutions and shorter delivery time.

Before we move on, let’s define what is a project risk.

RISK = Potential out come ÷ ability to handle the situation.

Let’s identify the potential outcome in case of failure of your project. The main question you should answer is: What happens if I fail this project? Here are some great point to explore:

  • How will this outcome affect my relationship with my boss, partners, peers?
  • Will they trust me with such project in the future?
  • Will they trust my judgment when I give advice?
  • Will my investor be willing to give me another round of financing?
  • Will the company be able to recover from this loss?
  • How will this impact the company financially?
  • How will this impact the company’s image and reputation?
  • Will my boss lose his job, will I lose mine?
  • How will I personally feel after investing all that time and energy into this project?

To help you visualize everything, I invite you to download and print my risk assessment guide. Write down all your answers in the grid. To each point, assign importance and ability to cope with the risk.

At this point, I assume that you already defined your goals according to my previous article: Is your project a success? If you haven’t done so, take the time to do it now. This is crucial for the success of your project.

Print your project’s objectives, potential outcome in case of success and potential outcome in case of failure. Put them side by side. Take the time to fully understand the implications.

These documents are the cornerstone of you project. Keep them close to evaluate the success of your project and use them as motivators.

You like this article?

Stay tuned for more upcoming insight on identifying project threats and establishing safeguards for the success of your project.

Is your project a success?

Sometimes it’s difficult to say with certainty whether a project is a success.  Throughout the implementation of the project you may have had technical difficulties, time constraints, poor team dynamic, etc. All these come in an can cloud our judgment regarding the overall success.

There is a famous misconception that many project managers gurus and PhD owners propagate on how to measure the success of a project. Here are some of the measurements I found:

  • Scope
  • Budget
  • Team satisfaction
  • Quality of work
  • Customer satisfaction

These are not metrics of success. They are constraints that one or a group of person decided to dictated to the implementation team to navigate between. You manage to respect all these? Great work! But was the right problem solved?

Constraints are usually flexible. For example to ensure objectives are meet you can:  change the scope of the project (add/remove features), shrink or add extra funding, reduce or increase work quality.

Objectives precise and static. Team Canada wants to win the gold medal in Hockey at the next winter Olympics. Throughout the year they will train towards this objective. During the Olympics you don’t see their coach telling them they now need to win gold medal in curling.

The best way to determine objectives is to work our way backwards. Start by defining the end goal. In what discipline do you want to win your gold medal?

Here are some good questions that will help you determine what are your objectives:

  • What are we trying to achieve for our clients?
  • Why are we doing this?
  • What is the desired return on investment?
  • How will this help improve our reputation?
  • How will this affect the way our customers, investors and competitors perceive us?

If you haven’t started your project, it can be very tempting to talk about tools and methodologies to us. For example, you might define one of your goals: build a mobile application and API to increase our readership. This is very limiting. You might not need a mobile application or even an API. At this point, tools and methodologies  are irrelevant at this point, since they are a means to an end.

Here are some example of clear objectives:

What are we trying to achieve?
Our current platform is very buggy.  It takes us days of testing before being able to deploy safely. We want to reduce the number of bugs and the time required between each deployment.

Why are we doing this?
Most music service that recommend music do it very poorly. We want to change the game and become market leaders in defining customers taste and suggest them relevant artists based on their taste not on what their friends listen to.

What is the desired return on investment?
The expected ROI over the next 6 month is expected to be 10 thousand dollars. In three years, it will represent 20 millions.

How will this help improve our reputation?
By increasing the productivity of our assembly line by 40%, we will be able to dedicate more resource to quality control. Our customers will appreciate the reliability of our new high end tools.

How will this affect the way our customers, investors and competitors perceive you?
Our online image is getting outdated, by creating a more engaging website and mobile application our investors will see us as an innovative company who means serious business when it comes to delivering on time quality content to the Canadian Citizens.

Take a few minutes and do the exercise and write them down. This will be your most important piece of knowledge for your project.

Not only will it help you assess your project’s success throughout the implementation and at completion. It will help you put things in perspective as you explore ideas, methodologies and implementation path! Even better, it will give a meaning to the implementation team and motivate them.

If you haven’t been able to define the goals of your future, on going project stop everything immediately. Take the time to go back to the drawing board. You probably don’t have a project and will waste a lot of time, money and generate much frustration for you, your team and your partners.

Success all comes down to achieving the desired end result. Olympic athletes set their objectives to win a gold medal in a specific sport and their sponsors evaluate their success on how often they climb on the podium. Not on how many times per week they trained or what type of food they ate.