Ever have one of those big projects that you’re told to fix and it stops you in your tracks? It’s not so much about the enormity (cause I’ve created departments from scratch) of the project, or the cost (cause I have argued successfully for billions of dollars), it’s more the new subject area. And you just don’t do anything about it at first. Then, driven by a need to do something, you begin what many call paralysis by analysis. You call a few people who know the subject area. Shoot, I once called an ex-employee I never met (Hey John, I am the new VP over here and you don’t know me, but I hear you worked on this project two years ago. John tells me he’ll think back, but it has been years since he worked on this.). You start going through old files (Picture me sitting with Board books dating back to 2007.) to read up on the topic area. You give the project a not-so-flattering nickname. (I called mine Formula 409 because I heard that cleaning product failed 408 times and clearly my inherited project had been sitting around for years being revised!) The end result: the work on that project isn’t anywhere closer to being done than it was the day you were assigned it.
So, what’s really going on? I wasn’t actually producing anything and this was draining the heck out of me. I hadn’t made one redline to the existing document other than changing the date on the cover.
Through coaching, I got to the root of the problem: me. It was about my inner need to get it right because I want to look smart. Hey, I have a PhD. I have been in upper management for 25 years. I couldn’t look like I didn’t know how to do this project.
Here’s the killer question my coach asked that got me back on track: If I walked into the office on day one and was going to create this project plan, what would step 1 look like? Killer follow-up question: What’s stopping me from moving forward with Step1?
Whoa, this is about trusting my instincts on how to achieve the project goal. I got past my “need to be right, need to be smart” issues. I had to get out of my own way. While I hadn’t developed one on this topic, I had created 100s of successful project plans. I didn’t have to fix the prior plan. I had to scrap it.
If I walked in to this project on day 1, I knew what I would do based on my experience. I got this! I need data . . . no one has asked our consumers what they need and how much they are willing to pay for it. A gap analysis! And why are we talking about staffing cuts when we don’t even know what products we need and what staffing is needed to support them? I totally got this! And in answer to killer question 2: no one is stopping me from developing my own plan. I assumed I had to fix the old one. I used my coach to rehearse the presentation of my (emphasis on MY) plan and not that patched up old plan. I spoke from a place of experience using my gut and nailed that presentation.
So frankly, you have to ask yourself three questions:
What’s holding you back from finding out the real causes of issues at work?
How would it feel if you could get rid of those issues and reach your goals in a way that is less draining?
What would it look like to create your own plan?