Have you ever just jumped in the car and started driving, making decisions about turning right or turning left as you get to each intersection? Maybe you decide while on the road where you’ll stay at night…maybe you change your mind and decide to change course part way through your journey?
It can be incredibly fun to do that. You get to see a lot of new things, meet different kinds of people at each stop, and you can enjoy the adrenaline of not knowing what comes next. It can be carefree and even exciting! It’s a great thing to do when you’re young, or when you just feel the need for an adventure.
It is, however, a terrible way to manage a project to completion. Project management requires knowing exactly where you are going, how you are going to get there, and when you anticipate completing it.
Leaving things up to luck, or to chance, will guarantee that you will not succeed and you will not reach your goals.
When you are managing projects, if you want to move your project/company/life forward you need to first know exactly where you are going. You cannot have a vague idea of where you’d like to end up, and you cannot make it up as you go.
You must take the time upfront to get exceptionally clear on what your outcome is.
Think of it this way. The most effective people in the world know exactly where they are going. They consider their goals, identify where they are, and design a very clear and specific path to get from point A to point B. They are known as being insanely focused, driven and often unreasonable about doing what it takes to get where they’re going.
And a large part of why they can be so driven, so intense is because they know exactly where they are going. This allows them to know what to say yes or no to when people ask things of them. It helps them decide when they must make certain moves so they don’t move too fast, or too slow. Being clear on their outcome dictates all of the previous steps.
Do you think Steve Jobs would have been successful with Apple if he just wanted to design a new computer, or a new music player, or a new cell phone?
Of course not! He may have found some success, but he would not have redefined an entire market.
And project management is really no different. Without a clear and concise outcome identified you will not be able to clearly identify the steps needed to get there and the timeframe that is reasonable to set.
Now, we’ve all heard about S.M.A.R.T. goals. This is about much more than that. This is about being very clear on what your outcome is. What is the ultimate goal of the project? When the project is complete, what will you have that you don’t have now?
Picture how things will change once the project is complete. How will your systems be improved? How will your team be more efficient? How will your business be more profitable?
So, before you start on your next project, take some time, real time, to precisely define what success looks like with this project. I promise it will make everything else a little easier.