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Career Q&A | By Liz Reyer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Big projects require planning, communication and delegating

Q: I've just been assigned to lead one of the largest projects of my career, with a large team and complex goals. Any suggestions on ensuring success?

A: Know where you're going, keep your cool and get folks on board to keep things going.

The inner game

It's a big project, sure, but you've been assigned to it based on your track record and your skills. If you start to feel overwhelmed, step back, take some deep breaths and get regrounded.

That said, do an honest inventory of your skills. You'll want to be able to use your strengths, and bolster your weaknesses by enlisting other team members who have complementary skills.

Looking at the project, understand what success will look like. Include the obvious factors of bringing the project in on time and on budget, as well as personal learning and leadership goals. Then consider the perspectives of all of the stakeholders — your team, your customers and your company's leadership. While they'll all have similar stated goals, there'll also be some "under the surface" goals that may be in competition. The more you can understand these, the more equipped you'll be to manage them.

The outer game

Managing projects, large or small, depends on taking a well-planned approach supplemented by extensive, ongoing communication to ensure that responsibilities are understood, problems are recognized early and key decisions are shared.

With a large project, break it into smaller, more manageable components. Put someone in charge of each to create plans and manage the detail; they'll report up to you.

Organize your schedule around keeping track of your subprojects, working with your team to understand how things are going and being available to guide problem-solving and remove barriers.

Also, take ownership of building connections among groups — disconnection among the parts is another great risk in a complex project. Use regular cross-team check-ins that include a focus on the collective goal.

You'll be the contact "up and out" to other people in the organization, so communication is a key word here.

Use the "no surprises" principle. If you have either a tendency to blurt things out or to hold things back, understand your predisposition and stay conscious of it so it doesn't derail you.

Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.

Big projects require planning, communication and delegating 02/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 3:30am]
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