I’m a curious person by nature, always wanting to learn more and discover new and better ways to do things. It really doesn’t matter what subject or problem I might come across. It also doesn’t matter if it’s something I’ve done many times before. The truth is, I am always looking for a better way to get things done.
I’ve been this way my whole life.
As a young boy, maybe ten years old, I got a new bicycle for my birthday. Within a couple of days, to the dismay of my father, I had completely disassembled the bike with the intent of making it even better. With parts strewn all over, my dad was furious that I had ruined my new bicycle and demanded that I put it all back together again. Somehow I managed to rebuild the bike without any leftover parts to the exact way it was, and live to tell this tale. In the process it taught me some valuable lessons that I’ve carried with me and are very much applicable today.
- Be able to justify the benefits and value proposition of what you intend to do.
- Solicit input and stakeholder approval before you move forward.
Now I will not beguile you with the notion that I never took another risk. On the contrary, risk taking is a necessity whenever you plan to introduce a change. The keyword here is plan, which is something that must be monitored and adjusted continuously. Risk planning and mitigation is a fundamental component to every project, and in my opinion it is the most important one.
- Every potential risk must be clearly articulated, quantified, measured for potential impact, and have a mitigation strategy.
- Make this a highly collaborative activity so that a wide range of viewpoints are collected, and continue to monitor throughout the project
Every business case I’ve ever written has always been constructed in a way to provide the answers to the myriad of questions senior executives are likely to ask. It involves tailoring the information to suit the individual needs of decision makers. An approach that often times requires a delicate balancing act of providing too many details or not enough.
- What business problem are you looking to solve and why is it so important?
- What is in scope and out of scope?
- What are the known assumptions, dependencies and constraints?
The entire process of collecting all relevant information and getting it into a structured format for review and approval is a painstaking exercise that requires time and multiple iterations to complete. It also must be done in a collaborative context, where all the primary stakeholders and delegates have their opportunity to weigh in on the expected outcome. This takes on an art form as you deal with unique perspectives, personalities and potentially conflicting needs to gain the information that you need.
As the requirements take shape, you must be able to answer two key questions:
- Current state: what is the process in place today (if there is one)?
- Future state: what will the process look like when we are finished?
In addition, you will also need to explain a few more things.
- What are the tangible and intangible benefits to making the change?
- What is the plan of action (short term and long term)?
- What are the financial details and ROI for the project?
All of the above requires great communication skills and the ability to influence others. The workplace is filled with a broad and diverse range of people. So the ability to read people, find a way to connect with them and gain trust is vital. If you are unable to cultivate the type of trust and open communication that is needed from anyone on your team, do not despair. This is where having a well rounded team and support from your sponsor can help bridge any gaps and build alignment amongst all team members.
Lastly, always maintain a positive outlook and find the good in everything that you encounter. You never know where the silver lining may lead you.