5 Pitfalls to Avoid if You Want to Successfully Launch That New Idea
The world is full of brilliant businesses with brilliant teams who are bursting with brilliant ideas.
With all this brilliance, why does it often feel like nothing ever gets done?
“You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering, and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” ~ Shirley Chisholm
Ideas are absolutely necessary to create big change in business and life, but even the best ideas are worthless if they can’t be put into action.
The sad truth my friend, is that implementation is the place so many good ideas go to die.
Some reasons great ideas don't see the light of day:
Failure to Link an Idea to Company Strategy:
A company’s strategy represents the overarching direction of the business. The money and people resources are set up to align with the execution of that strategy. That means a viable idea should map to the company’s strategy and ultimately drive your business closer to achieving those key goals. When evaluating a new idea, first ask how it will help achieve your business strategy.
An even bigger challenge is when a company has no strategy. I frequently see this in brand new businesses, turnaround situations, or when the leadership or ownership of a business has changed. In this case, the first priority is to establish a strategic direction and then to get buy-in and alignment from key team members before moving forward.
Lack of Commitment:
Imagine this: You’re in a meeting when a great idea comes up. The team enthusiastically embraces the idea, leaves the meeting, and then - *crickets* - absolutely nothing. If you've worked anywhere long enough, you've probably seen this at least once.
So, what happened? The most likely issue is lack of commitment. Everyone loves the idea as long as they don’t have to participate in the actual implementation. Sometimes it's because the business is short-staffed and lacking time or bandwidth to get the job done. Sometimes other projects take priority, or the company is trying to execute on too many ideas at once, resulting in tons of busy-work with very little visible results. Either way, it's important to remember that an idea without commitment is doomed to fail before it even gets started.
Lack of Infrastructure:
A stellar idea can change the course of your business, but when you don’t have the people, equipment, or processes in place to execute that idea, you’ve got an uphill battle on your hands.
When evaluating a new idea, it’s critical to understand the dependencies and resources needed to bring that idea to life. If you're lacking resources, evaluate your budget and ask, if executed, will the idea generate enough ROI to justify the cost? And cost goes beyond just money.
You also want to investigate: Will other projects suffer if resources are pulled to execute this idea? How much time will it take to build the infrastructure needed to implement the idea? And how will it impact delivery deadlines on existing projects?
Too Many, Too Few, or the Wrong Players:
The right people for the job is essential component of success and that also goes for implementing new ideas. An idea is more likely to become a successful project when a member of the business leadership team backs it.
Having a sponsor who can reach across multiple teams or vendors is a key influencer that can engage support on many levels, while having the authority to seek accountability from the project team.
Another challenge comes when the project team is made up of too many individual contributors, running the risk of death-by-committee. Too many people with conflicting viewpoints and loyalties can bring even the best project to a screeching halt. Timelines slip and goals becomes muddled. Projects that get bogged down by committee often become diluted by a series of compromises and the final outcome is usually a weak imitation of the original idea.
Lastly, a project team made up of people who don't have the right skills and experience to execute, or who have no power to influence the project, can end up killing a good idea. When selecting players to implement new ideas, thoroughly vet your team members. Choose carefully and choose strategically.
The excitement or sense of urgency that comes with a great idea can cause the team to jump right in and start implementing immediately.
A project without a plan can quickly deteriorate into a hot mess of a situation as each player eagerly sprints off down their own path. Gaining commitment for an idea is only the first hurdle to overcome. When it’s time for the work of execution, make sure to create a project plan before starting to implement on the idea. Before you dive in, you should, at a minimum:
- Build a Project Timeline: Build out a project timeline with key milestones and checkpoints along the way to make sure the project is moving ahead as planned. Know what you're measuring and how you will measure it to ensure you can correct course.
- Choose Your Team: Assign roles and responsibilities to members of your project team, and avoid the temptation to create a huge project team. Just because someone volunteers for the project doesn’t mean they should be on the team. Select only the key players needed to deliver results.
- Understand the Dependencies: What equipment, processes, or people will be needed to execute the idea properly? Are these already in place, or will you require additional resources?
- Ensure Smooth Communication: Establish a communication protocol early-on. Who needs to know and what do they need to know? How often will the team meet? Will there be checkpoint calls or regular meetings to ensure the project is on track? How will urgent developments be communicated to the team?
“A good idea is about ten percent and implementation and hard work, and luck is 90 percent.” ~ Guy Kawasaki
The next time you or your team has a great idea, take the time to fully develop it and use the tips above to help improve the odds of a successful implementation. Ideas without action are just an illusion – to make them reality, you must execute – and execute effectively.
“Execution really shapes whether your company takes off or not.” ~ Pete Cashmore
Execution is the great idea killer, but it doesn't have to be. Avoid the common pitfalls that lead to implementation challenges, and keep your project from becoming a casualty of failure to execute.
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