The Dreaded, Never-Ending Project
Every once in a while, I find myself with a project that drags on seemingly forever. Progress is slow or undetectable. And there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
The important thing to know is that, for most solopreneurs, there’s a reason this is happening. And finding that reason is as simple as asking and answering 3 questions.
“It can’t be that simple,” you say. Well, I am operating under the assumption that you are an effective and hardworking solopreneur and not living in your parents’ basement watching reruns all day. And given that you are hardworking and productive, if a project is stuck, there is something wrong with the situation that needs to be addressed.
The 3 Questions to Move Any Project Forward
1. Is the project goal clear, relevant, and clearly communicated to everyone involved?
Sometimes we take on a project with more of a notion for an outcome than a clear goal. Or we have a clear goal but are relying on other people to help us achieve it and haven’t communicated the goal to them clearly enough. And still other times, we start with a clear goal, but something changes, and we fail to update our thinking based on those changes. In this case, you need to reassess the goals.
Any of these can cause the project to stall. Projects can only proceed toward the finish line when we know where the finish line is. And this means having a goal that is clearly defined to everyone involved.
It’s helpful to make your goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goals, or you can use another method if you’d prefer. By setting them up in this manner, you'll be able to be as concrete as you can in defining the goals, and you’ll have a standard to measure your outcome against.
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2. What is the next thing we need to do to move toward that goal?
If your goals are relevant but the project is stuck, it’s typically because the next action that needs to happen to move it forward hasn’t been put into motion. Defining the next actions is a superpower for moving projects forward.
I like to ask, “What needs to happen next to move this project toward the finish line?”
The answer to this may be, “I don’t know.” In this case, you absolutely need to figure out what needs to happen next.
If you know what you need to do but no one is doing it, either no one has been assigned responsibility for the next action required or the person responsible is not doing their job.
This brings me to the next question...
3. Who should do it?
If you know what needs to happen next, then you need to put someone in charge of getting it done - not a group of people – ONE PERSON who will be held accountable for the result. Every task needs a single person to be responsible for its successful completion. It may be you, it may be a contractor or consultant. But it needs to be somebody and somebody needs to be qualified to do it right.
Why? Because nothing says, “Make No Progress” like assigning responsibility for anything to a group of people. One person needs to be the point-person and get the blame or the credit depending on how it goes.
When selecting another person to get the task done, get a good understanding of what each person’s schedule looks like (including your own). Even if they’re totally qualified for the role, you could hit delays if they don’t have the adequate time to allocate to your project.
Ask These Questions for All New Projects
By answering these three questions when a project starts, you can avoid getting stuck in the first place. And when applying them to stuck projects, even the most stuck projects can become unstuck.
Another possibility is that in answering them, you’ll realize the project is no longer necessary and you can remove it from your must-get-done list. This will help to free up time for other projects that are necessary.
It’s helpful to formalize these answers in a shared system where you can view the goals, all the steps that need to be taken, and the individuals who need to be involved, all in one place. This can be done in a Google Doc or Excel file. We are developing the LifeStarr App, to help solopreneurs automate the organization that is involved.
Do you have any other tips to get a project unstuck? Leave them in the comments below!