Buckle Up! How to manage your project to completion, even when sh*t happens.

We all go into project planning, fresh-faced and excited to begin. I call this the “New Car Smell Phase” of the project. Unfortunately, it does not last. What follows depends on the parameters of the project, the key stakeholders, and the project team. Some projects cruise to completion, others are a death march to nowhere. What determines if a project is a pleasure cruise or a death march? Planning and flexibility. 

If you think about project planning as a road trip, you will agree that you need a destination, directions, GPS, and reservations (hold my sunscreen).

Deciding on your destination.

Before you begin your successful project/road trip, you will need a destination, or final outcome. More specifically: agreed goals, solid objectives, and clearly understood success metrics. No matter how carefully mapped out, no project will proceed exactly to plan. In the fog of development, perspectives will shift, new options will be considered, and sh*t will happen. In this environment, it is critical to remain flexible and adapt to the changing landscape, which is why having an agreed definition of goals and establishing what success looks like are essential components for any project. They enable you to navigate a project’s changing requirements, while staying true to the substance of your agreements.

If you take time to plan, the investment of time on the front end will repay in high dividends as you work through the project.

YOUR DESTINATION (What you need to define your project goals): 

1.    Project goals: What is this project meant to achieve?

Why is this important? Project goals give the project team a long-term view, motivation and focus needed to complete the project. By describing the goals of the project in clear, concise language the members of the project team and all stakeholders can be clear as to what the project is meant to deliver. The project goal provides a true north which can be used to reorient when changes are requested simply by asking “does the change support the project goal of X?”

An example of a project goal for a website:

"Visitors must be able to register for the conference."

2.    Define the objectives: How will goals be achieved?

Dividing a project into components helps with planning.

Examples of project objectives for website:

  1. Landing page with conference information

  2. Link to registration

  3. Registration page

  4. Transaction

3.    Define success: What are success metrics?

“Success metrics” are a means of measuring the success of a project. The metrics that your project uses to define success is dependent on the goals for the project. For example, if your goal is to increase sales then you’ll need baseline stats of where your sales are now in order to compare them to future state outcomes. You will also need to determine a time frame for assessing success: How long after the project is completed will you begin to compare your sales with your baseline? 6 weeks? 3 months?

Other useful success metrics might based on productivity. Targets like reducing the amount of time it takes to get a product to the market or reducing the cost of production. Again, you’ll need a baseline to establish what the current state is to have a means for comparison.

Examples of project success metrics for website:

  1. Website will load quickly.

  2. Conference registration will increase 15% over previous year.

  3. 30% reduction in calls to the help desk, related to website issues.

Now you have a clear project destination!

Once your project has a destination, you’ll need directions, a GPS  system, and a reservation for somewhere comfy to stay (ideally with a pool!). We’ll discuss how to develop these critical aspects in the next installment.

 Until then, get out your maps and start planning!

Linda Secondari

Linda Secondari is an award winning Designer and Creative Director with more than 20 years of Design Strategy and Branding experience specializing in the publishing space. Linda is currently Creative Director for the Global Academic Business at Oxford University Press where she manages the Design Strategy Group, a team of 40 Designers and Art Directors split between OUP's Oxford, New York, Toronto, and Delhi offices.

Linda and her award winning creative team are responsible for the Design development of over 3,000 print titles a year as well as many digital products. The team also engages with content areas at the Press in ideation and visioning exercises to facilitate collaborative engagement between key stakeholders in the development process for products.