The Keys To Getting Projects Done


For many business leaders, projects are crucial to improving performance and achieving business objectives. Our businesses consist of three components that need managing. Governance aligns functions across your business and focuses on what’s best for the organization. Processes and projects are all about execution. Many of you may have mentors, advisory boards, or even a Board of Directors that help you with governance. When you are knee-deep in day-to-day issues, it’s nice to have someone you trust serve to lift your eyes above the horizon. I've written many times about processes and how important they are to your ability to deliver services consistently.

But what about projects? Typically they come in three types:

  1. Projectized work. Firms who deliver repeatable, short-duration projects, such as Tax professionals and discreet manufacturers, use this. The emphasis here is on repeatability, quality, and cost, as there is a reduced risk of uncertainty.
  2. Long-term projects you deliver as part of your business model. Firms engaged in construction and technology implementation use this. The emphasis here is going in with a plan, assessing risks, and managing scope. There can be much uncertainty here, so these companies usually manage risks to prevent something that can materially impact the budget, timeline, or quality.
  3. Internal change projects. These are the projects you target to improve a capability, whether it is a new or improved process or opening a new division. I lump internal IT projects into this bucket (applications and infrastructure) as well. What’s different about type #3? You are often asking your team to plan, design, implement and operate a project, and they may not have the training and experience as the people in type #2.

The key to any business is Processes. Why? Because they deliver consistent and repeatable execution. Even if your industry involves delivering projects, you need processes to manage your project delivery business. Most back-office functions like accounting, IT, and HR run on top of repeatable processes. I define a “capability” as people, processes, and technology working together to produce a business outcome. These require you as leaders to have thought about your business plan and your organization.

“The Seven Keyes” is a high-level program/project management approach consisting of foundational components that need to be in place to ensure success for project types #2 and #3:

  1. Stakeholders are committed.
  2. Business benefits are realized.
  3. Work and schedule are predictable.
  4. The team is high-performing.
  5. The scope is realistic and managed.
  6. Risks are mitigated.
  7. Partner organization’s benefits are realized (if applicable)

I would not recommend starting a significant project unless the project team and sponsor have addressed these keys. You’ll note that some of these are under your control (#3, #4, and #5), and for entrepreneurial companies, you could assume #1 as well. However, #2, #6, and #7 are outside of your control, and traditional project management tends to place less emphasis on these; I have found them to be valuable. I’m doing work with smaller companies now, but I find these keys equally applicable.

Should we focus on benefits (#2) in developing the plan, or should we start working and hope they are delivered? If you have promised business benefits, you’d better rely on the former.

Do you need help in getting projects done on time and budget? Email and let me know, and as always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.