What Makes A Project Go Well – A Survey – Article

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What Makes A Project Go Well – A Survey

By: Andrew Zenyuch, Innovative Issues Editor

Like most of your jobs, the business world of Innovation Focus is comprised of projects – ethnography projects, ideation projects, naming projects, sales projects, internal marketing projects, buying-the-owner-lunch projects…the list goes on and on. Sure, your projects aren’t exactly like the ones we do, but a project is a project; they all contain similar elements, constraints and challenges that we all encounter.

Sometimes those projects go well, and sometimes they bomb catastrophically. It’s usually very easy to identify why a project doesn’t go well. Not enough attention is paid to the aspects of a project that made it go off without a hitch.

I asked my fellow co-workers to call upon their experience in project work and answer this question: What makes a project go well? I wondered if the different experience levels in the wide range of projects we do would influence their responses.

Much to my surprise, the answers were pretty consistent. Clear objectives, good communication among team members and clients, and planning the project well are the clear-cut winners in what Innovation Focus thinks makes a project go well.

The responses are listed below. As you can see, the common theme is very much apparent:

“When there is a well-planned timeline and all team members stick to it.”

“The most important aspect of any project is communication. Yes, you will need all the right people, resources, and knowledge to see the project through to completion, but all of those assets cannot be brought together without great communication. For me, this always meant frequent, open communication with my clients and co-workers. Even small details, such as choosing a font for the final deliverable, might be important to some clients. It’s best to always let them know what stage of the process is being worked on, and give them ample opportunity to be involved and a part of the process. …it’s definitely a philosophy/way of doing business that has worked well for me in the past.”

“Clear project objectives and plan. Good clients – cooperative, involved, good attitudes, get back to you in a timely manner and are clear about what they want at the beginning of the project. They are also flexible and willing to respond to new opportunities. Organizational support for the project; organizational honesty, clear on what they can and can not do. Many will say they want a disruptive innovation project but really they only want incremental improvement.”

“Clear objectives supported by strong communication to ensure united team effort.”

“Projects are successful when there is enthusiasm and alignment about the objectives and methodology. Clear and constant communication among the team members with the team leader reinforcing roles and responsibilities is paramount. Even more important, though, is the power of doing meaningful work with a team that is inspired. Ya gotta believe in what you are doing to do it well.”

“For me, it’s planning and communication. Planning and communication between the project manager, the captain and the client gives a clear expectation of what the expected outcome and deliverables of the project will be to all the parties involved in the project. That knowledge when taken to me as a producer in a timely fashion provides the easiest production of the final deliverables as well as the ability to see potential problems that might occur down the road, and the time to address those issues. With adequate planning and communication between all parties any project can go well.”

“Clear goals, timing, and communication established with clients and the internal team make a project more likely to succeed. I find that when the internal team, in particular, are clear about objectives and timeframes, we are more likely to have cooperative and collaborative teamwork. For most projects, teamwork is primary even if most of the “team” is in a supportive or consultative role. For the client, we are more likely to achieve the end goals if we communicate steps along the way to minimize surprise, adjust the design when necessary, and check to see that the client is satisfied with the progress.”

“From my experience, the key to project success is preparation, preparation, preparation! Rarely will a project go from project kick-off to project close exactly as planned, without any bumps in the road. This can be very stressful for the team, especially in the field where resources are limited and tend to be unfamiliar. Being prepared for the unexpected will make all of the difference, and will ensure that the project goes well!”

“One of the key requirements for an innovation initiative to make it to market (go well) is the right team leadership. Innovation initiatives are different than the normal business projects and require different ways of leading, working, and implementing. Innovation is fundamentally about creating new knowledge and new ways of acting on it. This requires team leadership that can organize, mobilize, and franchise a project at all stages and across all functions and levels in an organization. It is absolutely essential to have team leadership that knows how to work with both the personal and organizational dynamics of innovation.”

“Collaboration is the key to making a project go well. When a client and a researcher work together through processes of planning, conducting fieldwork, analysis, report writing and dissemination, I realize that I have not only buy-in but ownership by the client of the research process. The synergy of working together with your client produces a satisfying experience and makes the project go well.”

As you can see, while they’re not the only factors, clear objectives, good communication among team members and clients, and high-quality planning are definitely key elements in what we feel make a project go well.

And now I throw the question to you, the faithful readers of Innovative Issues. What makes a project go well? Do you agree with us? Did we miss something? Is your experience with your projects unique and require something that isn’t listed here?

I want to hear from you. I will gather responses for the next month or so, and post a follow up article to this with those responses. If you’d like to participate, please send your response here.