All great projects begin with a plan. Why do project plans so often end up in the bottom drawer - forgotten and failed - despite hundreds of hours of investigation, analysis and great ideas. Why are so many great business ideas never actioned?

Putting that plan into action

All great projects begin with a plan.  Why do project plans and business visions end up in the bottom drawer – forgotten and failed – despite hundreds of hours of investigation, analysis and great ideas.  What stands in the way of converting plans into actions?

THE PROBLEM: NO ALIGNMENT

Even the most practical ideas will fail if they don’t match up with your company’s business goals. Every idea must fit within a company’s already-expressed mission, vision, intentions and business objectives.

The solution: Start by confirming your corporate objectives (customer service, financial performance, globalisation…) then map every step of your implementation against those objectives. Not only should the final objectives be aligned, even the implementation process may need to be aligned. If you are trying to encourage a strongly democratic culture, expect your project to follow a consultative process.

THE PROBLEM: POOR PLANNING

Companies routinely underestimate what it takes to execute a new idea. Optimists may be best at presenting the ideas, but pessimists make the best planners.

The solution: Think through your process as though you were living it. Actively seek out potential problems and risks. Identify all dependencies or pre-requisites. Then determine what you lack and – if the idea is still feasible – build it, buy it or outsource it.

THE PROBLEM: NO MORAL COURAGE

In today’s corporate environment, new ideas are inherently risky — so much so that even corporate mavericks fear taking on something that might flop. People want someone else to make the decision, and without that, they will just sit on an idea.”

The solution: Align incentives so that those who make big things happen get big rewards, while those who try to make things happen but fail aren’t flogged. And when someone does fail, hold that person up as a model — someone who had the courage to try.

THE PROBLEM: NO BATTLE LEADER

Moving an idea through the organizational gauntlet to reality requires entrepreneurial leadership. The corporate landscape is littered with good ideas that died because they were orphans.

The solution: If you genuinely want to carry an idea forward, designate a battle captain who is responsible for that idea and who is authorized to make it happen.

THE PROBLEM: NO PERFORMANCE METRICS

Can the job be done – and how will you know when it has been achieved. If you don’t know what tangible result you are striving for in the first place — let alone how we are going to achieve it.

The solution: Start by defining a concrete desired result (if its got to be better, exactly how much better and in what way), and then work backward. Map out the entire implementation process, from conception to delivery, and then put an experienced project manager in charge of each step. Be especially clear in defining the relationships between project phases.

THE PROBLEM: NO INTEGRATION

To execute an idea unless all the pieces (human and technological) need to collaborate effectively. Execution fails because it depends on a group of people or systems working together who are not used to working together, and who have completely different incentives.

The solution: Recognize that an organization’s structure can impede teamwork. Power often resides in business leaders who are not always committed to the execution of a new idea. Create a “virtual swat team” of trusted agents who have authority, who know their part, and who will commit to executing the idea.

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