“And we could be fined for over $200 million!” The bigger picture came after the project had been in flight for a year. Setting and clarifying team priorities and the vision should be done up front, not when the project is behind schedule and the team is exhausted and wondering what the point was anymore. Why do we have such a difficulty communicating purpose and vision?
We assume everyone knows the purpose. Honestly, I think this is where I struggle the most. I assume everyone has the same knowledge I do! It’s easy to forget that not everyone gets to participate in all the calls, see all the e-mailsm or have the same sidebar conversations. The best thing is to assume that no one knows the purpose of the project.
We don’t know the project purpose ourselves. Have you ever been given a project and really didn’t know why you were doing it or how it would help the company? Sometimes projects are assigned with no fanfare or explanation of the purpose. Or, only a partial explanation is given, and we don’t have the entire picture. A compliance project thought it was delivering technology for one aspect of government compliance but discovered too late they were also delivering for an additional government mandate that had a hard deadline not even a month away.
We don’t understand the importance of the project purpose. We can understand what the project is, but we can’t always tie it back to the bigger vision. While we understand we are delivering to meet a specific need, do we know how that need is going to affect our company and our customers?
As a leader, you need to consistently communicate the purpose and the vision for your project, department, etc. A compelling vision unites the team and rallies them around the goal. It helps the team understand the driver and why they shouldn’t let themselves or others get off course. They want to reach the goal when they have been shown the bigger picture. But how do we do this?
Explain the big picture. Paint the picture of why the team is doing what they are doing. In the opening illustration, the company would be facing massive fines if the project wasn’t delivered on time. Ensure your team knows this from the start! Or maybe you are delivering functionality that will create a better customer experience, create market opportunities, or make everyone’s jobs easier. Share this with the team, and share it often!
Bring the priority down to the individual. After the team understands the big picture, help drive the vision down to the individual. What’s in it for them? Maybe it’s directly tied to the project, such as increased sales allowing us to bring in new systems that will make your job easier. But maybe it’s more indirect. Maybe it’s getting them to participate in a project that will help their development and challenge them. Maybe it’s a high profile project that will give them the necessary visibility to get promoted. Connect them to the vision so they have a drive to help the project succeed.
Discuss the purpose throughout the life of the project. To discuss the purpose at the beginning of the project and never discuss it again is a disservice to the project. By reminding people why they are doing what they doing, you will keep them motivated. People like to have purpose. It makes them feel their work is valuable and they are needed. They see the direct contribution to the success of the organization.
Purpose and vision are not enough of a part of our regular communication. This should be something we share with our teams often, use as a way to unify the team, and help them feel like they are directly contributing to the success of the project and the organization. Start making this a part of your team communication, and see the positive impacts it has on your project or department!