5 Early Actions for Successful Project Planning

Project planning tips for successful launches and bigger wins!

I compare every project to a space shuttle mission. It may seem a bit of a stretch, but the same laws of physics apply. The shuttle used 2 million pounds of solid fuel and 500,000 gallons of liquid fuel in less than 9 minutes to reach orbit. Guess how much it used for the rest of a mission—less than 300,000 gallons. The momentum from liftoff and the gravitational pull of the Earth kept it in orbit for days or even weeks.

That’s the kind of start winners know they need to make a successful trip to any destination. The further away the goal or the more complicated the journey, the truer this is.

As the first 10% goes, so goes the project.

If the first 10% is defined by fits and starts, slow progress, low commitment or enthusiasm, the entire project will play out in the same way. Eventually, the project will peter out, the goal will never be achieved, and you will never see a return on your investment of effort, time, and maybe money.

If instead, the first 10% helps you successfully break gravity and build necessary momentum, you will dramatically increase your odds of completing the project and hitting your goal. Which is why you have to be deadly serious about the launch. The success of the entire project depends on it.

Here are 5 things you can do to control that 10% and create the best launch possible for any project.

Ask one more time, “Is this something I am determined to do?”

Give yourself one more chance to bail out. Once you start, you won’t have the option of making a half-hearted effort—unless you’re happy to throw away the invested time, money, and resources. This project has to be a priority. You have to plan to give it everything you’ve got. “Just do it” isn’t good enough to succeed.

Decide whether or not this is something you can do, something you should do, something you want to do, even something you have to do. If none of those apply, don’t do it. If they do apply, commit and don’t look back.

Overdo—commit more hours and resources than you think you’ll need.

Study after study has shown that many, many projects fail because they were never given the resources they needed to take off and succeed.

You—or your team or your company—have a limited number of man-hours, money, or other resources you can apply to projects, initiatives, endeavors. If you want to guarantee that the first 10% of the project happens, double your estimates for what you’ll need. The worst that could happen is that you accomplish the first 20% in less time and under budget.

Give yourself a margin of error by developing a plan, from the start, that allows you to finish the first 10% well ahead of your absolute deadline. There is a high likelihood that at some point, surprises will pop up and delay you. Getting the first 10% accomplished as fast as possible is crucial to building momentum.

The faster you go, the more likely it is that you will succeed. It’s hard for problems to hit a moving target. Click To Tweet

Identify your vulnerabilities.

We launch into anything new with two common mindsets: self-doubt or excessive optimism. Both result in a faulty start that leads to bad outcomes. Here’s the solution.

Don’t hide from your vulnerabilities, sticking your head in the sand. On the other hand, don’t go too far the other way and bury yourself in your vulnerabilities, letting them overwhelm you into half-hearted commitment and action.

Instead, be clear-eyed and proactive. What are the major hurdles you will have to overcome? What are the key deliverables that are most at risk, and why? How resistant are people to the necessary change that comes along with this project? How are you going to help them shift?

Be specific to prepare yourself for potential pitfalls.

Inventory your emergency resources.

It is highly likely that you will face hurdles in the first 10% of a project that can throw everything off track. A partner fails to deliver by a drop-dead date. A key team member leaves. A piece of the project turns out to be far more complicated or time consuming than you could have anticipated. A source of support or mentoring disappears. It affects you more than you think it might because you haven’t had a chance to build momentum yet.

When that happens, you need backup, emergency resources. Protect yourself: create an inventory of “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” resources available to you.

What do they look like? People who could help out in pinch, experts you could call on for a quick consult to help you resolve a problem, or even some extra cash.

Having these resources identified in advance gives you reserve strength and can save time and stress if surprises strike.

Set big daily and weekly goals.

Any project plan should include a handful of big milestones and regular monthly goals or checkpoints. If you’ve read a few of my posts, you also believe in the power of weekly goals when you’re trying to accomplish anything important, especially with a team.

But in the first 10% of a project, weekly goals are even more critical. And for many projects you should break it down even further into daily activity goals. You need an activity blitz to generate momentum.

You can’t leave anything to chance. You are building new patterns of work. You are overcoming friction. You, and your team if it’s a team project, need to shift in order to make the project a priority. And you need to track your progress so that you know whether or not this is happening.

Don’t take the first 10% for granted. Be organized, get it done, get your project off to a solid start.

The payoff when we are rigorous, even maniacal, about the first 10% of a project is that we build the momentum we need to carry us over all the bumps and hurdles to come as the project continues.

Give yourself the gift of a powerful launch.

I want to know what your biggest, long-term goal is. Tell me your biggest goal in a comment below!

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