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4 Alignment Hacks for Pre-execution Planning

Organizations change for a reason, either to be more competitive in the market, drive innovations, cut costs or to push for operational efficiencies. Congregations of initiatives, cross functional teams trying to juggle between multitudes of tasks, assortments of reviews for governance, various dashboards and tons of meetings follow but very few can drive the ROI or meet the project objectives. Over the course of the journey, we just have the plans to track like the Roller coaster rides with Plan Vs Achieved or Met Vs Not Met summaries. Plans are nothing; planning is everything. Every project or initiative has a plan but often reworked for distinct reasons and unfortunately organizations fail in this quest for the perfect plan. This key answers towards achieving your goals (project objectives) and it lies in the pre-execution planning. This is the best time to have a validation on your strategy vs execution plan.

Spectacular achievement is always preceded by immaculate Preparation. Hence before anything else our preparation is the key to our success. Listing out 4 Hacks for Pre-execution Planning -

1. Identify the Most essential Goals or Objectives (MEO).

These are goals or objectives without which our project or initiative cannot be a success. Break them up further at Organizational Level, Department level or Division levels.

Once we have this identified run a dipstick survey within the organization to check if there is a concurrence on these goals. So irrespective of one hundred different benefits being achieved, if the MEO’s are not met then we are going to be unsuccessful.

Pivot around purpose, if we can anchor to purpose, that is when we can pivot, even with constantly shifting conditions. There might be instances where your stakeholders want perfection over progress. There is always a huge opportunity to get stuck if we let ourselves obsessed with perfection. Embrace and grab on to those opportunities for progress. Perfection is the enemy when conditions are changing rapidly.

2. Results Vs Efforts:

We define a detailed work breakdown in our Plan, we have processes to govern our agile methodology, or we might have a day wise effort breakdown or task breakdown, the MEO tasks must be reviewed, and all dependencies /risks must be identified/mitigated. Most of the times teams come under pressure because they start with an end date or due to contractual commitments tend to overpromise. If we have a dependency or detailed register, it is going to be extremely easy to negotiate on the revision of timelines with any Sponsor.

Have a three-point estimate rule for every task feat. This will help us to strike a balance between the optimists and pessimists while determining the efforts. For Agile organizations, the poker method of estimation is amazingly effective, especially if it is done by the teams responsible for the activities. Try correlating what can be achieved by the weekly efforts, how closer or what should be our target result. This plot of Efforts Vs Results can help to visualize the overall Project Plan milestones.

Additionally, our efforts should include pre-requisites. Remember the pre-requisites checklist is an evolving artefact as we keep on transforming the estimations and keep fleshing the tasks. Right sizing the effort and matching the right approach is critical for a comprehensive pre-requisites checklist.

3. Upfront Commitment:

There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you are interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results. The commitment must be at various levels right from the sponsor or Management till the teams or divisions getting involved and explaining them a visual chart of what lies ahead. Highlight all challenges from our Risk register, be it month ends, or holidays or extra hours expected, attrition or current operations workload that they understand and act on them.

The Divisional Heads, SME or department heads can then visualize and be mentally prepared for this initiative and relook at the department priorities. Commitment is an act and not just words.

The best way is to anchor in business Value, create Aha moments with Visualizations and making actionable tasks for your sponsors. Most often the sponsors have great intentions however are uncertain of how to get involved and we miss their valuable leadership.

4. Identify Influencers and Decision Makers:

One of the most important tools during Pre-execution planning is the Stakeholder analysis map. This will need some engagement with all staff or project teams involved, the stakeholder map consists of identifying stakeholders, analyzing (understanding stakeholder perspectives and interests), mapping (visualizing relationships to objectives and their stakeholders). You can validate the MEO as well using this tool.

Amongst all the Stakeholders, you need to identify the key Influencers who have the power to drive the people/staff. People influence people; hence identify them across all levels.

Think how you can help the influencers at the same time being inclusive and transparent in your communication. There are various change management practices that can be used during the project lifecycle.

Remember all initiatives are more complex than ever before, with teams pushing the boundaries of design and engineering with each new endeavor. With innovation comes complexity for which conventional methods are starting to prove inefficient. Hence it is time to use the influencers to drive the team’s commitment to the project /initiative’s MEO.

Bonus Tip:

Along with the above 4 hacks would encourage the Project leaders to have a fearless engagement with the stakeholders, ensure resourcing is agreed & review if the organization is experiencing Change Fatigue or Saturation.

Continuous change is inevitable today, Change Saturation occurs in organizations where the initiatives (disruptive changes) exceed the capacity to adopt them. The stretching of staff becomes the norm, and you might have to get repetitive prioritizations done on the Project, basis the bottlenecks identified.

Wishing you the very best in your pre-execution planning.




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