You know the drill, you’re called in by the Boss, and he’s nice… you know somethings up.
And it is, you now have a huge project that needs to be done quickly, impossibly quickly.
I’ve been in these situations before and I’ve talked to others who have managed to pull together big projects impossibly quickly, and here’s what we have learned to complete that urgent important huge project before the deadline- seven simple steps to success.
1. Strip away what’s unnecessary.
When you first get the project, there’s a mix of must haves, nice to haves and other things that people seem to think are important. The first step to quick and successful project completion is to identify and strip away the inessential items. Confirm what’s really important for the project to be successful. Cut the project down to just the “must-do” items for the required outcome. You can always add some nice to have items if time and resources permit towards the end of the project.
2. Plan slowly to move quickly.
I’ve found that the urgency of the deadline breeds an urgent to start activity immediately. Don’t just jump in haphazardly with a big, quick project. The result of this false fast start is usually a dead end because of insufficient thinking or lack of the right resources. Speed can be the death of efficiency. Better to spend a few hours or even a day or two (if you have time) talking through the scope and planning resources that are needed, and logical steps towards implementation. This enables you to set appropriate priorities based upon available time and resources.
3. Assemble the right team.
Pick your team members carefully. Leave the panicky dramatic people outside the working group. Enlist the specialists you need based on your pre-planning and bring in one or two creative utility players that can take on any job. Make sure there is one person in charge of documentation and logistics, and that’s not you.
4. Make a clear division of labour.
Don’t let people just assume tasks. If you put all the work on a few people and others are sitting around, you’ll never make the deadline. Have a clear checklist of the items to be completed with dates and times and who’s responsible. Make sure each item has only 1 person accountable so you know who owns that part of the project. Make sure people assess the time it takes to do those projects figuring in outside dependencies and distractions.
5. Have brief but regular check-ins.
When you are in the rush, details can get lost in the cracks. Make sure your team is communicating regularly. Email and sms is insufficient. Set a brief catch-up meeting for once a day, or twice a day near the end. This is a chance to do a 15-minute check in to make sure no one is stuck and nothing has been forgotten. The purpose for this is cross-talk between all team members its NOT a chance for you to speak individually with everyone. Don’t use it for long discussions or you will derail the team. Take big issues that need extensive discussion offline unless you need the whole team to weigh in on a longer meeting.
6. Accept what is good enough.
You don’t need to skimp on quality, but not everything needs to be perfect down to the last detail. Focus the effort on what’s truly important. Understand what’s fit for use- is this a demo or prototype, or are you delivering the final version. What’s the real deadline- does everything need to be perfect for the Board presentation, or will 80% perfect do, and then take some extra time afterward to build in suggestions before the final roll out. Once you launch you can improve along the way, buying yourself a few more days.
7. Build in time for testing.
If you run your creative process right up to the last minute of the launch, something is bound to go embarrassingly wrong. Schedule in a test (practice run, practice presentation) day or two before the projects due. It won’t upset your deadline and you’ll for sure be glad you tried it all first.
If after all this the project still seems daunting,