Over the past 15-20 years, I have seen numerous important Human Resources initiatives fail due to a lack of planning and project management. Without clear organization, teams often attempt to launch an initiative fraught with issues and plagued by missing details. At other times, plans end up “dying on the vine” due to lack of strategic support.
Looking back on these years of HR experience, I have a few tips that might help future colleagues successfully launch a new project.
1. Know the scope of the project.
Nothing is worse that trying to start an untenable project. If possible, start with a small pilot to get buy-in and proof of concept. If you need to expand, use a second iteration to extend your efforts to other groups or introduce additional functionality. A smaller and more focused project has significantly greater potential for success.
2. Gain key stakeholder buy-in.
If you cannot get your manager or other business leaders on board with the project, do not bother with the initiative. Even if they are lukewarm to the idea, acknowledge that you need get them to commit if they are going to rally behind it. Also, remember to identify all of the stakeholders. Leaving someone out of the process, even unintentionally, can almost guarantee failure.
3. Understand your resources.
Resources include technical capabilities as well as your colleagues’ availability to help. Even in the smallest of organizations, competing priorities vie for attention and resources so be realistic in your expectations. Touch base with each affected department – especially if your project requires help from IT – to make sure that they have time or that it is at least on their roadmap (depending on how big the project is).
4. Break the project down into reasonable pieces.
Looking at a project as a whole can be overwhelming. However, by breaking it into smaller pieces, you can then assign owners, order the work, and figure out the duration of the project. This step-by-step process helps ensure that you do not miss anything.
5. Do a soft launch.
We can learn a lot from restaurants. They regularly hold “soft openings” so that they can do a test-run and make sure everything is in place. Similarly, software companies often run a beta-period to get feedback and made adjustments before a full implementation. In some cases this type of testing may not be possible; but if you can, a soft launch of the project or program will help to iron out some of the bugs before implementing it throughout your entire organization.
6. Follow up.
After the roll-out, be sure to check back to see how things are going and elicit constructive feedback. Are there any changes that need to be made or is there a group that has not embraced your new program? This follow-up time will go a long way to ensure that your program sticks and does not become “another HR initiative.”
Whether rolling out a new performance management program, conducting an annual focal review, or even orchestrating a layoff, I encourage HR professionals to design and implement a project plan. In the end, you will be glad to have one.