Fresh for Fall

Maybe it's a childhood relic, but the start of fall always makes me want to run out and buy school supplies. Practically speaking, I don't have much use for a box of newly sharpened pencils. In my current reality, that same excitement for a new beginning translates into a desire to take a fresh look at my current project portfolio. This fall, the timing is particularly right for a new beginning, as I'm starting a brand new project (sharpened pencils, here we come!) Even more fortunately, I participated in an Agile Product Owner training course last week, which inspired me with even more great ideas for how to apply these concepts to the new endeavor. Below are some good questions to ask when starting up a new project:

  • What's my role? This is key. If you don't know what you'll be doing, you'll have no context for how to innovate, manage, or mentor. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your appetite for uncertainty), you may never be able to get a straight answer to this question, and the answer may also change throughout the project. To combat this, make your voice heard, and figure out opportunities to delegate the execution of your ideas to others if you start to feel like you've bitten off more than you can chew.

  • What didn't work before? What's the reason that this project is being initiated? The reason is that something is missing from the current process, dataset, or knowledge base. Find out what that thing is and set aside some time to brainstorm about how to correct it, either on your own (at first) and then with the team. This may yield new insights about: 1) what the true problem really is (not what everyone thinks it is) and 2) how to approach that problem in a way that wasn't previously considered.

  • Do your homework. I continually emphasize to my clients the importance of taking your time to see a thing through. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new beginning (or what I like to think of as the "fall"-ness of it all.) I love signing a crisp new charter, identifying stakeholders, and putting together a RACI matrix as much as the next PM. What's tempting is to speed through that process just to check items off your to do list (or just to get it over with, depending on your perspective.) But rushing into the meat of the work too quickly may leave you in the lurch if you haven't taken the time to properly understand the problem, scope the project, and think through the effects it will have on the people involved (both the project team and the stakeholder community.) I'd argue this is important for both agile and traditional waterfall projects.

For those not lucky enough to be starting up a new project this fall, check out this great article from the digital PM about how to freshen up your current projects. Happy Fall!