Hopefully, this blogpost is something you’re reading out of curiosity and not necessity or desperation. However, if you’re in that latter camp, you’re not alone. We’ve all led or been part of a project that didn’t exactly have the full support of the team charged with completing it. The good news is there are things you can do to improve the chances of engaging the whole team and accomplishing the goal you’re shooting for. More good news is these tips can be applied to many other situations, not just Lean events. Your ability to lead successful projects could also be good for your career advancement. Before we get too excited about your next promotion, let’s look at a few things that could make your next project even better.
- Start with WHY: Some people really need to understand why they’re being asked to do something. Once they know that, they are much more likely to cooperate and add value. Ideally, they will know the why before the project starts. If you can’t explain why the project is needed or why this particular group of people have been chosen, it’s better to take some time to figure that out before the launch.
- Secure executive support for the project: This is probably the norm in your organization already. Either way, there are more than just the formal reasons to do it. Getting executive support can also be a morale booster for the project team. Some people are very driven by recognition and others just want to know the project will be taken seriously. Regardless of who’s on your team or how they got there, having executive level support will increase your odds of success.
- Be organized: Chances are, your Lean event or project is something people are being asked to do in addition to their regular job. Make the most of their time and yours by having your act in gear before they step away from that job and arrive at your event or project meeting. This will also help with your local “PR.” People will talk about their experience with coworkers. If they’re telling everyone that you knew what you were doing and it was easy to be part of the team, you’ll have a much better chance of getting others to cooperate in the future.
- Give real answers to any questions: Take questions seriously, especially those foundational questions up front that will contribute to the tone of the project and how people feel about it. This will help you create a situation where people feel comfortable asking questions and raising concerns, some of which you may not have thought of. This could include an informational meeting just for those types of questions before the project even starts.
- Build relationships outside of the project: It’s just as important to develop a network outside of the project. You never know who might have a great idea or be able to support a future project. One way to do this is to ask people about their pain points, regardless of your current project or the fiscal calendar. Some opportunities don’t come around very often, so take advantage of them. For example, when you’re on a trip with coworkers you don’t see much and you’re all waiting for a delayed flight. If people aren’t totally exhausted or too stressed out to talk, this could be a good time to ask about their work and what they’d like to see improved.
- Organize supporting resources before they’re needed: Whenever possible, know whose help you’ll need outside of the core project team and give them a heads up so they’ll be available when the time comes. This is another action in the category of being organized and removing as many obstacles as possible before things get going. There may be unknown obstacles and unforeseen events in your project future. Take care of the known ones before all that happens.
- Learn from previous projects: Talk with previous team members, project champions, process owners, and anyone who could tell you about what worked or didn’t work. If you’re already collecting feedback from people during your Lean projects and events, look at that to get ideas of what else you may need to know. It’s always good to take feedback seriously. Showing people that you listened and did something with the feedback they took the time to give can also go a long way in building the network of support.
There are, of course, other things you can do to help your project along. This list is meant to get you started and give you another way to look at familiar activities. Which of these could you add to your toolbox?