Recently I saw a little banner that read:“We do this not because it is easy, but because we thought it would be easy.”
Truer words have never been spoken so directly to me. So many times I’ve had a manager or leader share a great idea. My job as a Design Operation leader was to figure out how to get great ideas from a conference room table into the world.Let me tell you, it’s always much more work that you expect. Often, my clients can get frustrated and confused about why they aren’t making more progress or why they aren’t meeting their goals sooner. Here’s my diagnosis. We dramatically underestimate the gap
between where we are and where we are headed. It’s worth giving the larger context some thought as we are diving in...
- Finding the Edges: Have we established the right edges of our project? Is it too big? Or not ambitious enough? If it’s a big project, can we break it down into smaller steps that will each be valuable? Getting our project right-sized takes consideration. As a lead, you may be responsible for long-term, ambitious visioning but how does that meter out to folks in actionable chunks? Where do we take a bite?
- FTSOW: Again, for the sake of what are you doing this? Keep your “why” front and center. Scope creep, conflicting needs from stakeholders can dilute a great idea. It slowly serves everyone and everything and drifts away from its original purpose. Keep everyone grounded in the real purpose of the work by remembering your why.
- Timing is everything: is our idea aligned with the political climate and leadership priorities? Great ideas also need great timing. The promotion that was a slam dunk with your old manager, may require more effort after a re-org that pairs you with a new manager. Even in our personal lives goals need to fit our capacity and other responsibilities. Is there preparation or further thinking you can do if the season isn’t right for a full project kickoff?
- Relationships: which ones need to be strengthened (or even established) as we start this project up? Being upfront and honest about this is helpful. If you know you don’t have a great relationship with X, consider a plan to improve that connection. Thinking we can move a project forward without the right relationships comes back to bite us in the most inconvenient times.
- You did it! But does anyone know?: There’s the doing of the thing, and then there’s the sharing, training, rollout of the thing. Don’t build a beautiful thing without a great rollout, roadshow or sharing plan. The project that dominated your life for months may not be on many other’s radar at all. Have a plan to share. It's not bragging or showing off, but making sure something of value is connecting with others who will benefit.
If we knew how hard it would be, we’d never start. Staring a project with confidence and optimism is wonderful, when the inevitably bumps start, look around to see what is going on in the larger context instead of doubling down in your own silo. Leadership requires broad thinking, cooperation and an ability to read and forecast the weather within our company and beyond.