Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How To Get Everyone on the Same Page of a Project

(Image: My project task list. Green means it needs to be done. An "X" means it's done. ip = In Progress.)

One of the things you do as a manager is give direction. When doing a rehab, you're giving tasks: remove this fixture, patch that wall, and replace the item over there.

The issue I ran into was getting everyone on the same page. At first, I created my own project plan which included tasks, materials, who was going to do it, and time to complete each. I'm actually pretty good at this and tend to land pretty close to my estimates. Then I kept that project plan for myself and simply let my guys know the bigger vision and only immediate next tasks.

Since I often have meetings for my job, I liked to give enough tasks to get them at least through my next meeting. So I would give 3 or 4 tasks. However, when I checked in, I found that only the first and last tasks were done, and the middle ones were forgotten. As you can imagine, this was slightly frustrating.

How do I get them on the same page as me? How do I get them to not forget a step? Ideally, how I do get them to be more self-empowered?

My current solution is working better. First, I only give two immediate tasks at a time. Second (which technically came first), I shared my project plan. So not only did I give them the overall vision of the project, but I also shared all of the details. We spent 45 minutes going through each task and making sure they understood each one. So, if they finish their immediate tasks, which I now just read off the list with them, they know what to do next and and how to do it.

It's not perfect, but it's a lot better.

Another side benefit is that they're actually freed up to give input into the project since they have a clearer understanding of what they're doing. For example, one day I asked them to install a new cabinet. They stopped and asked if I really wanted to install it before they painted the room. Notice, they remembered that painting was on the list (albeit an obvious one, but still), and felt comfortable asking about it.

I was able to send them off on another task from the list while I did some research. It turns out you do want to paint drywall with at least a primer before installing something to it. So we're following their suggestion and painting that wall first. If I hadn't given them the entire project, they would have gone forward without question, like earlier.

Lessons learned: Be organized and fully scope out a project before starting, then share your entire plan with the team. Take the time to slow down and make sure everyone is on the same page before you get too far into the weeds of actually completing the project. It'll help them know where they're going and provide an opportunity for feedback to make the project even better.

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