New projects or initiatives are interesting little devils. I refer to them as "devils" because you never know when they are going to turn on you and bite you in the butt. You can plan them out until every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed, and still have them blow up on you. In contrast, there are those projects that went from their entrepreneurial epiphany to their launch, and beyond, in what seemed like a nanosecond with no glitches whatsoever.
There are reasons why some projects fly and others crash and burn. In the tradition of every blog post I write, the reason has everything to do with leadership.
Here are some no-compromise thoughts on why some projects fly and others crash:
- The “life or death” scenario: In most cases, these projects are flawed from the start. Projects born out of desperation are typically fast-tracked through without giving much weight to potential problems, accountabilities and impact on the company’s already stretched resources. The push to launch overrides caution, and the sense of urgency emboldens leaders to take otherwise questionable risks. Interestingly, life or death projects are usually a reaction to previous life or death efforts that didn’t work out so well either. Recommendation: Most life or death projects end up being bad bets on the wrong horse because they’re rushed, poorly implemented and lack flexibility.
- Vision versus detail: Visionary leaders are the idea and innovation creators. They see the big picture and have that innate talent to see what others don’t. But visionaries tend to be all about “getting there now” rather than “how to get there.” They need to surround themselves with detail people to figure out the plan, logistics and other crucial elements. Detail people drive visionary leaders crazy because they keep telling them what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. In contrast, detail-oriented leaders tend to be short on innovation but brilliant at managing complex projects through to completion. Recommendation: If you’re a visionary leader, allow your detail people to be heard and to do what they do best. They want to attain the same success you’re striving for.
- Need to synchronize: The leader hits the launch button and watches his project lift off the launch pad while the rest of the company says, “Hey, what’s that?” This scenario plays out all the time when the leader’s sense of urgency is out of sync with the rest of the company. The mission is unclear. Roles and responsibilities are unclear. The project quickly evolves into a point of frustration and agitation for everyone. Recommendation: Never enter mission control alone with the intent of hitting the launch button on a project without your team around you—especially your detail people.
- Clarity and information flow: The best teams have playbooks. The best teams huddle before every play to ensure clarity on what happens next. The best teams adapt rapidly to the unexpected—because they prepare for the unexpected. The best teams know the score and the stats every step of the way. Lack of clarity and information flow is a guarantee that some team members will be left in the dark, others will be blindsided, and some will be playing an entirely different game. Recommendation: Every new project must have clarity and information flow as the key component. Design it into the project from the start and you will find more and more projects making it across the finish line.
- The first 15 percent needs the remaining 85 percent: The first 15 percent is all about innovation. It’s the idea and why it needs to exist. Visionary leaders love living in the first 15 percent, but it’s the remaining 85 percent that transforms the first 15 percent into a viable project capable of crossing the finish line. Recommendation: Leaders that ignore or shortchange the 85 percent routinely see their amazing ideas crash and burn. There is never a guarantee that a project will succeed, but the closer the process gets to 15 percent + 85 percent = 100 percent, the better its chances are to succeed.
Success is a process, and so is failure. No-compromise leaders allow innovation and new projects to be owned by the team, for all voices to be heard, for all players to be empowered to win.
About: Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies, a business training and coaching company specializing in the professional beauty industry. Neil is a business trainer, coach, keynote speaker, an award-winning author, and the creator of the Team-Based Pay System. Neil is the author of Fast Forward, the definitive business resource book for salons and spas, and No-Compromise Leadership, winner of the 2010 IPPY Award for Business. Since 1993, Strategies has been transforming salon and spa businesses into dynamic, profitable, and sustainable team-based cultures. For more information on Neil and Strategies, go to www.strategies.com.