You just boarded the flight, stowed your carry-on luggage, and were settling in for the 3-hour flight back home. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard”, said the pilot over the speakers. “We’re glad you chose our airline and we invite you to sit back and relax and enjoy the flight. We’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that this is a brand new plane and this is the first time she’ll be up with passengers on board. The bad news is that the plane is not quite finished yet. As a matter of fact, if you look to the right of the aircraft you’ll see there are a couple of mechanics putting some finishing touches on the wings. Don’t worry though, we have enough wing surface area to get started and they’ll finish up what they need to do while we’re in flight.”
“What?!!??!!” you think to yourself. “This is LUDICROUS!! There is no possible way I’m going to be on a plane that is taking off without everything done yet!!” You promptly push the cabin assistance button and ask to be transferred to a seasoned aircraft.
Joining a company in its infancy
Did you know that you may have already been on a plane that is taking off without everything finished yet? This is what happens. You may have joined a company in its infancy. There may be only a handful of employees when you started with the company. Or, you may have joined a bit later when the beginning of departments were formed.
The company is sitting on the runway and poised to take off. There is tons of business coming in. Commitments have been made by salespeople of what the company can deliver. Customers are lining up and placing their orders left and right. In aviation terminology, the company has passed V1. Once the pilot passes V1 speed they must commit to the take-off even in the case of engine failure. Dramatic measures can be taken up to the point of V1 to stop the plane, but once it reaches V1 the take-off can no longer be aborted.
The company you have joined just passed V1. Everything may not be 100% perfect, but this bird is taking off. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but enough work has been done up to this point that the company is airworthy.
One notable area that is left to be finished is the project management planning processes and procedures necessary to complete projects on time and within budget. This is of particular concern to you because you’ve joined the company as their first project manager! You have been assigned to the ‘wing’ of this aircraft to implement their in-flight planning software processes.
Congratulations?! It will be a fun and exciting ride if nothing else. But, how do you implement in-flight planning software in a company? The following outlines some of the challenges, a plan for getting it done, and some indicators to look for so that you know it’s complete.
The Challenges of Implementing In-Progress Software
There are a number of challenges to working on projects while you are building out the process at the same time. For example:
- It Takes Time to Get it Right: Every company is unique in how they get things done. Sure, there’s an overarching process across most companies that begins with the start of a project and then culminates in closure activities. But, there are a lot of steps in between that will be custom or unique to your new company. The last thing you want to do (unless everyone is directly reporting to you) is say “this is how things are going to be done around here from now on” without truly understanding what needs to be done. It takes time to arrive at that understanding. Putting the in-flight planning software together requires meetings, planning sessions, and time to vet out what works and what doesn’t.
- It Takes People to Get it Right: Another aspect of implementing your in-flight planning software while you are working on projects at the same time is that it takes people to get it right. You can run the risk of spending the time all by yourself and forego the meetings and planning sessions, but your results will be less than airworthy and have trouble getting off the ground. You’ll have to include key resources and subject matter experts from various departments in order to make sure the in-flight planning software is accurate.
- It Takes a Shift in Culture to Get it Right: The pilots will already be in the cockpit when you joined the company. These could be the founders or the entrepreneurs that built the plane, got it on the runway, and have been pushing the throttle forward. They know it’s not perfect, but they want to get this thing off the ground regardless of how bumpy the ride. The passengers (aka employees) are interested in a bit of a smoother trip. You have to be mindful to mesh these two different cultures while you are working on the in-flight planning software implementation.
Understanding the challenges of working on the process while in flight is one thing. Understanding how to get it done is an entirely different matter. Below are the steps you can take to implement in-progress software.
How to Implement In-Progress Software
The following is a tried and proven way of working on projects while building out the process at the same time.
- Identify the Largest Pain Point: What is the one main area that everybody complains about the most? It could range from them never knowing that projects have been approved until the last minute to project estimates being exponentially and profoundly wrong. Zero in on this one area and commit to solving this problem first.
- Start with the Easiest Success in the Largest Pain Point: Once you have identified what is giving everyone the most grief, meet with everyone and determine what can be done to make it better. You will be amazed at how simple the answer is going to be. For example, it might be just as simple as having a representative from the development team sit in on the weekly sales meeting. This will give them a heads-up into what is coming their way. Or, a basic spreadsheet could be implemented to ensure that all tasks and activities on a project have been accounted for. This could greatly increase the accuracy of the estimates.
- Expand to the Next Area of Success: Once you have achieved success in this first area, you could then ask everyone if it’s better to identify the next largest pain point and fix something there, or is it better to stay in this one area until everything is fixed. It’s the concept of do you want to go a mile wide or an inch deep.
- Don’t Interfere with the Cockpit Until You Have Landed: Finally, while you are going through these steps you don’t want to interfere with the cockpit until these things have been fully implemented. There’s no reason to poke a stick in their eye and say the way they were doing things was stupid or didn’t make sense. They know that or they wouldn’t have brought you on board. Just fix the problem, obtain objective results, and then let them know how smoothly things are going.
How do you know when you’re successful? When the pilots ask you to join them in the cockpit because they need your services and the flight is smooth! These are great signs that you’ve been able to get your job done and include everyone in the process. So, sit back, enjoy the ride. You’ll be landing shortly.