Late November is the time when many of us are reflecting on our progress for the year and updating our stakeholders.
This can be fraught, particularly in an increasingly cost-constrained environment. Many recent working session stories have had a cost theme, as have many of the stories I have been working on with my corporate clients.
In that light I wanted to share one critical idea to focus on when preparing your next progress report.
Prioritising impact over activity is ever more important in these increasingly cost-constrained times. Let me explain what I mean.
Saying ‘we have been busy' is rarely enough. Providing a list of things you and your team have completed over the past period is the easy way out and only marginally useful. Even when the list is well-grouped, it is rarely insightful. It can also be overwhelming and just says ‘we have been busy'.
I once worked with the head of projects at a global car company and she asked me why her CFO never responded to the weekly update email he requested.
When I reviewed it I could see why.
She had listed literally 100 project tasks that had been worked on, categorised by area, without offering any insight as to how these linked to the overall objectives.
Saying ‘we are on track' is better. Our Traffic Light pattern helps you tell a straightforward good news story. You can say ‘all is well' and then back that up using a classic time-ordered structure. It works from past to present and then future by beginning with what has been done, moving on to what is currently in train and then what is planned.
This at least offers stakeholders comfort to know that they have nothing to worry about. This can be sufficient, but is not always so, especially in times of heightened attention to costs.
Saying ‘we have delivered X value' is better still. You can tweak Traffic Light a few ways to achieve this.
- Order by project area. Instead of ordering the ideas by time, you could outline how much you have achieved in each project area. The difference here is that you would say, ‘we delivered xyz results' rather than ‘we completed abc activities'
- Order by impact. Another way to structure the supporting points is to explain where you have delivered the greatest impact first, then move to moderate then to the least.
Explaining how your team could deliver more impact is best. This requires you to take a step back and look for opportunities to optimise your ways of working within your area as well stepping outside that area to focus on your purpose.
If you reflect on the reason why your program of work exists and ask whether your priorities and activity are still the best way to achieve that goal, you may find some gems. Here are some questions you might ask:
- Are the boundaries or constraints that we believed to be in place at the start of this program still relevant?
- Has anything changed outside our area that would render some of our work either more or less useful, and so deserve to be reprioritised?
- Could we work in parallel rather than in sequence to deliver more quickly?
- Are we gold plating for the sake of technical perfection rather than value?
- Do we have capacity to support another critical area of the business? (Dangerous, I know … but potentially value adding all the same!)
I offer these as thought starters rather than a complete list of questions. If you have seen others in play that are not here, let me know and I can share them in next week's email.
I hope that helps. More next week.
PS We have now uploaded two new podcasts into the portal that are not yet available anywhere else. Check them out … I think you’ll enjoy them.