October 22nd 2020

Eight surefire rules on how to make sure your next project crashes to the wall

This morning, while browsing our intranet, I came across a small project with a great epithet: Super Urgent. No, not just urgent, but super urgent! When I read something like that, it makes my toenails curl up. After almost three decades of professional experience, 16 years of self-employment and more than 10,000 completed projects, I can confidently assure you: projects of this type are doomed to fail from the start. There are plenty of reasons for this, because sometimes expectations and reality just don't want to jump into the same boat. There's only one thing that helps: throwing the baby into the well and asking the fire department to hit it with a hose.

The first warning signs are often subject lines like "Urgent, Critical, ASAP" and recently also "Super Urgent". But at the latest with ASAP, you should start to pay attention. If a project is so urgent that there is no time for formal politeness, let alone tendering, something is wrong, isn't it? If, against all reason, you still want to be adventurous and plunge into failure, I have drawn up an eight-point plan here on how you can drive your next project crashing into the wall with almost certain probability.

Rule No. 1: S.M.A.R.T. goals are for quacks

Let's be honest: Experts are nothing more than overpaid & costumed clowns with expensive briefcases, who make us believe that they have eaten the management wisdom with spoons.

"Supreme wisdom is inconsequential data unless it is made the basis of actions and behaviors." - Peter Drucker, Emperor of Management Consultants

What does Peter Drucker, self-proclaimed business guru, know about your business? Some well-intentioned advice: forget all that nonsense about setting specific, measurable, realistic, and timed goals. Goals don't have to be formulated S.M.A.R.T., they have to make money! Basta. And fast please, super fast!

Rule No. 2: Project plans are an absolute waste of time

Time is money. That's why I recommend you avoid any time wasters in a big way. So, if you want to scribble a few nice tables in your notebook at the beginning of the project, feel free to do so. But, if you get lost in irrelevant topics (such as supply chain, business change, compliance, stakeholders, mission, vision, and goals), don't be surprised if you don't earn a dime at the end of the day.

Rule No. 3: Misunderstandings only happen to amateurs.

Once you have accepted a project, get to work as soon as possible. Refrain from unnecessary e-mail back-and-forth about who has to do what, what not to do, or what to expect. Systematic handover meetings, kick-offs, jour fixes and all the other francophone or denglish gobbledygook are also unnecessary. It would be even nicer if your customer suddenly started telling you how to do your job.

Rule No. 4: All you have to deliver is a result

How you ultimately complete a project is up to you. Intermediate deliverables are part of internal workflow processes. What happens between the request and the delivery is your business and is none of the customer's business. And besides: If you are not satisfied, it's your own fault. What a cheek that the customer wants to be actively informed from time to time about progress, any interim results, partial successes or, God forbid, any imponderables, hurdles and obstacles that arise. Where are we anyway?

Rule No. 5: Et hätt' noch jot jejange!

Learn better from the people of Cologne than from Peter Drucker. And that, as a Düsseldorf resident, from my own mouth, may be saying something. If you have managed to carry out projects successfully so far you will always succeed in the future. You don't need a consistent methodology or detailed planning for that. Just remember: "Et' hätt noch jot jejange!"

Rule No. 6: Everyone sweeps in front of his own door!

The customer gives the order and you do your job, it's that simple! If you make the mistake of including the customer in your project management, you run the risk of being disturbed by annoying inquiries. This also applies to all employees involved. Work areas should always be clearly separated from each other and stay that way. If everyone takes care of their own job, no one will get in each other's way.

Rule No. 7: Employees are the means to an end!

Never overestimate the value of your employees! Employees are interchangeable and ultimately no more than the manpower needed to get the job done. That's why you can confidently mix up a team for project execution. Or replace them in the middle or with newcomers.

Rule No. 8: Save personnel costs!

It is not your responsibility to make sure that your employees are motivated and adequately compensated for their work. You might as well do it yourself. Personnel costs are often unnecessary cost drivers anyway. So why invest even more time in motivation, training, wages or skilled workers? Look at it pragmatically: If you lack expertise, if you're not competent, if you don't know your job and your responsibilities, you're out. And that means super urgent!

Let's recap: If you protect your next project from people-, process-, or communication-related disruptive factors, you will drive it unerringly to the wall. And in no time at all, "Super Urgent" may turn into "Never mind now!"

Warning & Disclaimer, aka Conclusion:

If, against the obvious urgency of this advice, against better advice, you still choose to ignore individual actions or willfully refuse to implement these recommendations, you will if you like it or not succeed with your next project. However, then you are please beautifully completely yourselves to blame! I had warned you...

And finally, a note from the editor:

The author apparently ate a whole clown for breakfast this morning and also drank a good deal of irony, but it was all "super urgent" once again.

Herbert Höckel

Herbert Höckel is a managing partner here at moweb research GmbH. He has been a market researcher for more than 25 years. In 2004 he founded moweb GmbH, which he is still the owner today. moweb from Düsseldorf operates internationally and is one of the first German market research institutes specializing in digital processes.

You are welcome to purchase his book "Customer Centricity Mindset ® - Really Understand Customers, Master Disruption Successfully" here.

Your success, our goal!