Your Next Step (How to keep your project from failing.)

Projects often fail, not because everyone involved doesn’t understand the project vision, but because the stakeholders are focused too far into the future.

You must have a clear vision of the change that your project will bring about. How will the world look different once you are done? Who will benefit? Who will need to undergo a culture or attitude shift? What new capabilities will be required to maintain and improve on the change that is implemented?

All of these questions about the future after the project is complete are necessary. But the future vision for a different world isn’t the only place that you should be focusing. What you really need to be focusing on is your next step. Solely focusing on the next piece of work seems to be trivial advice. Of course, we are going to get to that work. Unfortunately, we often get so caught up in the future change that we don’t take care of this step. Just like a Formula 1 driver who “focuses on the next feature on the racetrack or road ahead,” you have to focus on the point of work in the future. Don’t just look down at the work that you are doing now, and don’t only think about the vision in the future, keep your head up and look far enough down the track to see what the next piece of work is.

If you focus on your next step, you will naturally start to prepare for what is coming. You will organize your time and resources so that you are ready when you get to the work. You will plan for the problems that might pop up. You will start to think about exactly how you are going to manoeuvre through the next roadblock. You won’t be surprised when you get to the curve in the road.

Focus on your next step. Don’t only focus on the change you are planning to make, and don’t be so short-sighted that you are only looking down at your current work. After you have set out to make a change in the world, keep your eyes on your next step, and you will slowly achieve the change you are trying to make.