~ By Kenneth Darter
It can be difficult to start something new, especially if it's a new project or a new approach to a project that you haven't experienced before. And if no one in your organisation has ever done it before? Well, that can be terrifying.
Even if you and your organisation have executed similar projects many times in the past, starting a new project is difficult. 'New' implies risk and challenge - but it also implies opportunity and growth.
No matter the number of projects you've worked on, the status quo will only take you so far. At some point, you will need to break out and work on something new.
When you do, the right mindset is crucial.
First steps should include focusing the vision. A project may start out as a great idea or even an offhand thought about something you should do, but the vision needs to be clarified. The focus must be on what the project is going to accomplish. This can be a high-level scope statement, or you can begin to drill down on the scope and define the requirements that will be met by the project.
It may be difficult to do this, especially if it's in an arena that's not familiar to the organisation, but the appropriate research and level setting should be done first - before the project goes any further.
While there may be a wealth of knowledge within your organisation or your company about the projects and work done in the past, if you're starting something new or approaching a problem differently, you might need to look to experts outside your organisation.
Help can be found in project management organisations or websites, through mentors or even through research in the library. In other words, when you're starting something new, do your homework - but recognise that much of that will need to be done outside of the normal avenues for subject matter expertise.
Every step in a new endeavour should be built upon the work of previous endeavours. There's no need to throw out what has been done before in order to try new things. There are always lessons learned and valuable assets from previous projects.
For example, there are often processes and templates that can be leveraged into new projects even if the scope or work is veering into new arenas. While trying something new is a great way to grow personally and as a company, the steps you take should always be based on past experiences and the strengths of the people involved.
Yes, risks are unavoidable in projects, but they're especially present in projects that involve something new or something different. A solid risk plan involves identifying the potential issues and coming up with a mitigation plan and a mitigation budget. When the organisation or the project manager is working on something new, then, that risk budget becomes extremely important.
In addition, extra time should be built into the schedule from the outset in order to accommodate a learning curve or estimations that are not based on past experiences.
These risks should be understood and communicated - from the beginning of the project to the very end of it.
From taking the right first steps to staying on top of risks, how you approach any project is crucial, and ultimately impacts the project's success. With the right mindset, you can help successfully drive any project through to completion.