Creating Your Roadmap to Success: The importance of project management and accountability
"Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must fervently act. There is no other route to success." -Pablo Picasso
As a marketing and communications professional and small business owner, I can attest to the importance of planning to ensure goal completion and success. I know what you may be thinking: planning is a no brainer. Well, I'm here to say that it is often this looming mountain of a challenge for many people. The thought of building a framework, a roadmap, can be overwhelming and many all too often dive into work with a lack of focus and direction. I see it all the time. Sure, for some it's second nature to first start with a plan; for others, not so much.
In my experience leading marketing and communications departments, I've seen internal clients --other departments within the organization-- cause a sense of panic amongst my team when their lack of planning creates an "emergency." There is a constant "whooaaa, buddy", pull-the-reigns back, stop and regroup approach to this common scenario. I think of it as an educational opportunity. Sometimes, we all arrive on the same page rather quickly; other times, we continually redirect.
The idea of creating a framework, a plan, is something I consistently work with people on. I've seen energetic, well-intentioned professionals juggle too many balls and wind up exhausted from tricking themselves into thinking busy-ness equals productivity and effectiveness. Believe it or not, I often find the idea of formulating a plan as one of the most challenging aspects of managing a team. I feel it's important for all members of a team to be involved in the planning process and to have vested interest and input in it. If they're working the plan, why wouldn't they be involved in the development process?
A roadmap, a plan, can mean different things. In this case, I want to hone in on the ideas of project management and accountability to inform a plan and ensure goal achievement. This sort of plan is your beacon; just when a project seems to be wavering, you can look back to your roadmap to identify hang-ups, responsibilities and key milestones. This is important in establishing boundaries and expectations throughout a project process.
A recent experience working on a campaign involved mapping out deliverables, responsible parties and target dates for multiple teams. If a target date or deliverable is missed, the project timeline shifts. When we ran into a hurdle, we worked with the client to update the plan and reset accountabilities. The plan serves as a checkpoint, an opportunity to regroup and focus.
Another example --this one involving poor planning-- involved work with a vendor on a project. The vendor failed to provide an effective project framework or communicate about project progress. Deadlines were virtually non-existent. Without timelines or expectations laid out for participating parties, aspects of the project were misses. Participants had varying priorities and there was dissatisfaction with various aspects of the project. As a client, questions arose regarding the overall expertise and general organization of the vendor. Word to the wise (a sidebar and blatant attempt to state, what I hope to be, the obvious): if you're providing a service, you can demonstrate your value quite simply through project management, open communication and conveying ownership and vested interest in the work you've been contracted to do. Moving on...
It's also important that the project plan includes goals. What is the purpose of the project at hand? What does success look like? How do we evaluate project effectiveness?
We can extend this same approach to overall departmental and organizational goals. I'm inspired by Simon Sinek's "Golden Circle" and "Start With Why" approach (If you haven't seen his TED Talk, you must. Set aside 20 minutes and watch it!). It's important to understand purpose and channel your inner three-year-old: ask "Why?" Why are you working on this project? Why do you do what you do? Why are you working on this task? This approach can harness focus and an understanding of the ultimate vision.
Imagine what would happen if a pilot didn't have a flight plan or if a captain didn't chart the ship's course. Disaster could ensue.
Give yourself breathing room. Give yourself milestones, providing nuggets of accomplishment along the way. Plan your work, then work your plan to chart your course to success.
Natascha Bohmann, 200-RYT, MBA, has more than 10 years of marketing and communications experience in both non-profit and for profit settings. She is the owner of Udana Yoga and Wellness, a yoga studio located in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and has been teaching yoga since 2009. She offers marketing and communications consulting services as well as coaching services to yoga teachers, helping with personal brand development and business growth. Learn more about her background and services here.