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Experiencing an Inability to Finish Projects? Here’s HOW to Improve Execution and Get That Project Done.

According to David Allen, each of us has about thirty projects on the go at any one time. Yet, even when these projects can be incredibly exciting and inspiring, the chances are that you are not going to get them finished.

This is a common pain point for businesses too, one which I have covered in previous articles on common obstacles to implementation and the HOW skill set.

But this inability to finish projects can be frustrating, not to say a little disheartening. And that’s particularly true in a context in which a business has lots of different teams, players, and priorities. Whilst big companies have dedicated project management teams, in smaller organisations the ideas, drive, and momentum for these projects often has to come from the CEO themselves.

We all know, however, that the creative minds of CEOs are not necessarily equipped to deal with the demands of HOW. (The same goes for many employees, by the way. They’re taught ‘sales’ or ‘marketing’, but the skills required for the big project implementation are never, for some reason, a priority.) But if you need to up your company’s game, the HOW skill set is really a necessity.

Now, I know that you CEOs are all positively fizzing with ideas. You have all the inspiration, but you’re lacking the tools to make that a reality.

Here, I want to discuss, using the 5is, HOW to improve execution in your business. And that means bringing all that inspiration into concrete tasks distilled into a plan and routines. With that, your inability to finish projects will be a thing of the past.

Intention: What’s the Project?

As ever, start with the intention. I’m sure you’ve got this covered; you’re the ideas person after all.

What is the project you are hoping to implement? What do you want to achieve? How do you want your company to be after the project has been completed? Use Brené Brown’s lovely question: what does ‘done’ look like?

None of these are abstract questions. Your inability to finish projects probably comes from a lack of clarity, either in yourself on what ‘done’ might look like, or in your team who have not understood your intention. So, if you want to improve execution in your business, make sure there is clarity in intention and communicating that intention.

I read an interesting statement the other day, which is a paradigm-shifter for delegation. It said, when delegating (or explaining) a project, delegate the outcome you want with clarity. NOT the task.

Clarity on the outcome you want is key.

We’re not talking solely about what ‘done’ looks like for the business as a whole. Think about what your project’s intention would be for all the different teams involved as well.

Insight: What do You Need to Do?

Once you have considered fully where you want your organisation to be, you need a completely exhaustive brainstorming of the ideas.

This needs to consider both your existing assets and the transformations you need to facilitate.

So, what are the things you need to change to get to your image of ‘done’? Which are the bits of your business that need to be improved? And what tasks need to be implemented, managed and supervised to take your idea into reality?

These are the transformations. But these transformations need to be matched with your existing assets. So, think: what are the skills that you have available in your team? Who can offer what and who is best made responsible for which tasks? Also involve all your team and ensure everyone’s voice is heard.

With contributions come buy-ins to an idea.

With all these concrete thoughts compiled, you’re one step closer to improve your execution.

Identify: What Tasks are a Priority?

The moment after the brainstorming is usually the central pain point, the crucial moment responsible for your inability to finish projects.

Why do I say this? For two reasons. The first is that this is the moment at which a project ceases to be just a cerebral happening and turns into something real. This makes a huge difference – and it is one of the crucial moments when change fails.

The second is that, with all the inspiration and excitement coming from the brainstorming, you are likely to encounter ‘New Year’s Resolution Syndrome’. i.e., you’re going to want to do everything at once. If you do this, almost without fail, you are going to fall flat on your face. Your psychology, your physiology – and those of your team – aren’t going to be able to handle this.

‘Paralysis by overwhelm’ hits and motivation will plummet if you don’t work to break this down.

The key to successful implementation is breaking a task down piece by piece

First, Categorise:

  • Preparatory Tasks: These are tasks that you need to do before the project can begin.
  • One-off Tasks: The things that you could do today and never have to think about again.
  • Support: Delegate/Outsource these
  • Habitual Routines: What habits need to change, and which need to be integrated?

Then, Prioritise:

To improve execution in your business, you need to be really – like really – particular about prioritising. With your intention as your guiding star, you need to consider which tasks are going to be the most impactful and which the most influential.

Prioritise the most impactful and the most influential tasks.

They might be a hurdle to execute, but, once done, they create a shift – in mindset, in organisation, in habits – that make the project easier to finish.

Find out more about how to prioritise tasks!

Implementation: What Sort of Tasks Do You Have?

The next stage of the HOW skill set that you need to improve execution in your business is implementation.

Planning is key – plan out HOW and WHEN you are going to execute (and actually complete) each of the tasks. You want to avoid that ‘New Year’s Resolution Syndrome’ and try and finish everything in the first week. You will be setting yourself up to fail.

Creating a plan that will keep you motivated, enable you to F.O.C.U.S (Follow One Course Until Successful) and keep you and your team on track.

With a plan in place you can create goals, accountability and actually THRIVE in change. You can offer rewards and keep willpower at an all time high throughout the process.

A great plan enables you to monitor the implementation.

Integration: What Habits Will Make the Project Succeed?

Changing people’s habits is the sure-fire way to improve execution in your company. And this is what integration is all about.

With nearly half of our behaviours being habitual, habits not considered during implementation are going to contribute to your inability to finish projects. So, think about habit formation: what are the cues and behavioural responses embedded in your workplace that can be removed, changed, or added?

And how are you rewarding productive habits and incentivising great behaviours?

Imagine if your team was unconsciously, even effortlessly, executing improvements.

An example of a great workplace habit of implementation would be to allot time periods during the week to work on that project. Maybe on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, everyone works for an hour on the project as they come into work – before they have looked at their emails. Or, maybe this hour could happen after lunch.

This protected time creates a situation, somewhat like task-batching, that means everyone is focused on the same thing at the same time. There’s greater focus and cooperation. Establishing effective routines can be really helpful for your implementation strategy.

Habits ensure organisations improve execution.

In Summary:

This is the HOW Skill Set in action. It is teachable, you can learn this skill set.

I see many business owners and managers trying to be the only HOW person in their team and that is HARD.

There’s an old saying, usually attributed to Confucius, that goes something like “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.”

There’s an important life lesson in that simple statement. If you are the only one coming up with all the answers to HOW to get something done, then you will get drained very quickly. This is commonly why plans fail… willpower burnout. You only have a temporary solution.

Teach your team the principles, and they will be able to work with you on solutions in the future.

That’s why I teach the HOW Skill Set to business owners and teams to help them implement with ease.

I offer a range of training options so get in touch!