If You Knew How . . .

When you are leading a project, it can be too easy to assign work and assume that people know how to do it. An even bigger mistake is to assign work and believe that everyone understands the real purpose of doing the work. Project leaders must think about how they are equipping stakeholders to do the work. Even though people may understand that they have a task assigned to them, they may not know how to do it. The best way to learn how to do a task is to complete it. And the best way to complete a task is to have someone work with you on the first one or two. Once you are successful, you’ll have the momentum to move forward.

An Example

A project that I am working on is to increase my impact as a small business. Growing influence means increasing the number of people and companies I serve and the size and scope of projects in which I am involved. I know my task very clearly.

What is more challenging to figure out is the exact steps that I should take to help more people. I know that I should sell things, but it is hard to see whether I should keep trying to sell something that people aren’t interested in or try something new. I know that I need defined products, but it is hard to identify a product when there is no customer feedback. I know that I should get customer feedback, but it feels like an imposition — And I certainly don’t want to be spamming people for their opinions.

All of the problems that are my ‘assigned tasks’ are simple and straight-forward to some people. Many entrepreneurs have gone before me and successfully solved the same problems. But I don’t have experience solving these problems to the scale that my project plan says.

Practice Piano/ Rehearse a Monologue

What I need, and what your stakeholders who are assigned work need, is a template to help them start. When you begin to learn the piano, you start by playing songs that someone has already written. As you progress, you write more and more complex songs. At some point, you may improvise or write your own music, but even the greatest orchestras in the world mostly play music written by someone else.

You need to find the template for the people doing the work can place over their work. Help them figure out what the steps to the dance are. In a world that values disruption and innovation, we forget that most pop musicians still work within the musical constraints that have been in place for a long time (octaves, notes, rhythm, harmonies.)

In a second example, most good actors don’t learn to be actors by writing their own materials. They master the great materials that have already been written. They bring their personal passion to the words and bring them into the world in a new way.

If You Knew How. . .

As a project leader, don’t assume that people know how to finish their assigned work. Find ways to show people how to succeed in their work. Give them a path and don’t expect them to learn by themselves or innovate a new way of doing the work without the experience they need.

You can be a leader and a guide to show people what has worked and how it will be applied to this project.