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Projects Don’t Fail in Formulation; They Fail in Implementation!

In my 20 years of experience and participation in 1000s of projects as a former VP of Operations, Business Consultant and Entrepreneur across multiple industries and globally, there has been one constant – projects don’t fail in formulation; they fail in execution!  It is an odd phenomenon as to how many companies and executives spend considerable time discussing, reviewing, and approving projects yet largely ignore the implementation.  Of course, you can imagine the result – failure.  Even more surprising, they do not understand what happened.

It is my job as a management consultant to ensure my clients are not only prepared to set up and prioritize the project but to ensure success.  Thus, the 80/20 of my focus has been on implementation.  What are the secrets to success in implementation? 

1.    Proactive Reminders. As simple as this sounds, it is often overlooked.  There’s nothing exciting or “new” about tracking project progress and proactively reminding people of critical path tasks.  Yet there is nothing more powerful in ensuring bottom line results.  So, with so few companies following this course, you have the opportunity to stand out in the crowd with simple, solid project management skills.

For example, on a recent inventory project, the key to achieving a 35% reduction in inventory was tracking simple metrics (inventory ordered, inventory received and inventory shipped) and reminding project team members as to which items to focus on in order to achieve the reduction while maintaining high service levels.  No rocket science yet it “worked”.

2.    Rigorous Attention to Communication and Roadblocks. I might as well say “motherhood and apple pie” when I refer to communication as everyone understands communication is vital.  While working with my clients, I’ve found that it isn’t communication alone that does the trick. 

Actually, more communication is not always good – more useless or annoying communication can not only be ineffective but it also can cause project implementation issues.  Who wants to waste time or discuss unimportant items in relation to achieving the project goals?  No one. Yet, it isn’t uncommon.

On the other hand, effective communication is integral to project success.  For example, each project team member should understand the project goals and how their tasks fit into the goal.  Simple, effective, consistent communication delivers! 

Effective communication leads directly into proactively addressing roadblocks.  Those project teams that not only discuss roadblocks but address roadblocks succeed.  Since 80% of all projects fail to deliver the degree of intended results, this is an area to think about.  It isn’t complex, yet it requires the willingness to confront issues.  Will you be one of the 20%?

3.    Follow-up. I’m happy to admit that one of my keys to success has been follow-up.  Follow up trumps brilliance, a magnetic personality and a Harvard PhD.  Again, a simple concept, achievable by anyone yet rarely used. 

Follow up can achieve wonders.  For example, in a process improvement project, we were able to improve operational efficiencies by 10-20% with a simple follow up process.  In essence, we tracked ideas for improvement, followed up on progress on a daily basis, adjusted ideas/ plans as appropriate, followed up with appropriate resources and repeated the process.  Not complex yet it was hard work – and delivered results.

As businesses struggle to stand out in the crowd in the “new normal” business environment, it is imperative to leverage already-existing advantages.  As simple as it sounds, solid implementation skills can be hard to find within your organization; however, typically there is at least one gem within the rough.  Perhaps your competitive advantage will come from looking at your team with an eye to those who can implement.  Imagine what your business could achieve! 

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