Lessons for "making something happen"...

Chess is a strategic thinkers game with a simple goal of capturing the king. The strategies to accomplish this however are complex, with advanced thought out moves and counter moves to make it happen. Some have said chess is the board game of life.

Like chess, very activity that we do, more often than not, has a reason behind it; that reason is usually connected to another reason, and so on... ultimately leading us to where we want to be (or having what we want to have). Lately I have become involved with a couple of complex projects and chess, as well as a number of lessons have come to mind. I thought I would take this opportunity to share the lessons I've learned over the years for "making something happen"... 

Have a project plan written down on "paper" or in a spreadsheet. Start with the date you've targeted for completion; from there, work backwards with all the activities and milestones that need to be met.

  • This will outline all the activities (or tasks) needed and illustrate how all the activities are interrelated.
  • This will quickly illustrate if you have identified what is needed to get it done, as we'll as make clear the complexity.
  • This will allow you the ability to communicate the project, particularly the so-called "devil" in the detail.
  •  You will have "line of sight" to the resources needed to get it done.

Complex projects will require a team. It is this team that will determine your ability to execute effectively. Don't underestimate how important it is to have the right people, as well as the energy required to ensure they are working in a coordinated manner.

Communication needs to be a dialogue... and constantly ongoing. Do not underestimate the time and energy that is needed to ensure everyone is up-to-date with the latest information... just because you "talked about it", doesn't mean you "were heard". Also remember, email is great for transferring information, but horrible for communicating. 

The greatest plans will "fall off the rails". It has been said that the best plans will become obsolete as soon as they are implemented, as they are now in the real world. This is not to suggest you do not have to develop an execution plan, but rather that things happen, so be flexible and adaptable - What you thought would work today, may not work tomorrow. 

Be Patient. We are notorious for believing things will happen "sooner", "faster" and when we want them to. The universe, more often than not, does not share the same feelings as we do. I am not suggesting urgency should not be your mantra... I am just saying sometimes you need to be patient and wait for things to run the course.

Believe. I am not talking about faith here, but simply referring to being confident in what you are doing, and how you are doing it. If you are leading a team, this becomes even more crucial as others will look to you when the situation seems to be "heading to hell in a hand basket" - They need to know the course they are on is the correct one. 

Victories can be small, but they add up. This definitely occurs with complex projects, as there are many activities between the start and the finish. Look at what you have in front of you, work to the best of your ability and don't dwell on how far you are from the finish line. As they say, "It's the journey, not the destination". This of course, all within the scheduled timeframes.

Hope is not a strategy. Enough said. 

There is one last thing that comes to mind, and that is to start. As much as everyone has the finish line in mind, I believe it is just as important to have a start date - With that, you can then say, "look at all the things I have made happen so far".