The difference between an excellent project and a mediocre one can often come down to how well you strategize when you first get started. Directionless execution often results in low quality work, silly mistakes, and disappointing outcomes.
On the other hand, a targeted, strategic approach to your project workload can lead to excellent results. And it all depends on how seriously you approach strategy at the start of a project.
If you find yourself producing low-quality work, or if you want to take your projects to the next level and earn a promotion, take the time to develop a plan of attack before you dive into your work.
Here is how good strategy can result in great results at work.
The way you prioritize your projects can make an impact on the quality and focus of your work. If you go into a project with the expectation that every task involved is of equal priority, it’s highly likely that you’ll get sidetracked and distracted by less important work.
It’s important to realize that every project has high-priority and low-priority tasks. There are tasks that need immediate attention and ones that can be put off til the last minute. Understanding priority and timing will help you focus your energy on the work that matters most.
A successful project is usually not one where the person doing the work equally splits their time between tasks. If you put the same amount of effort into a low-priority task as you do a high-priority one, the likelihood is that your overall attention to quality will be brought down.
Instead, focus on putting the most effort into high-priority tasks. Get low-priority tasks done quickly and efficiently, and spend all the extra energy creating top quality results for the most important parts of the project.
A bird’s eye view
A strategic approach to a project will allow you to get a bird’s eye view of your work, both in terms of what you need to do and what you’ve gotten done. That perspective is critical to a successful project. It first allows you to have set high level goals, and then to drill down into the nitty gritty tasks required for each goal.
By strategizing from the top down, you will have both a macro and a micro view of your responsibilities on the project. At the same time, you’ll be leading a targeted approach to completing the project.
Each task you do in a given day will be focused on a single goal. Each completed task will lead to the larger achievement of a finished goal. And a finished goal will get you one step closer to a highly successful end product.
And best of all, this approach results in the creation of checklist for each goal in the project. That way, as you get more and more things done, you can check them off your list and feel a sense of progression.
Without a clear and targeted strategy, you might find yourself forgetting to do crucial parts of your project as the deadline rolls around. You might also find yourself forgetting to do a whole load of low-priority but still important tasks. The end result is a panicked rush to get your current work done while juggling the things you didn’t get around to finishing.
A strong strategic approach to a project will always have the deadline in sight. Each task and goal will have its own ideal completion date, so that you have every goal and task complete by the time your overall project deadline rolls around. And when you get pushed off track by work that took longer than you expected, you’ll know exactly how much time you have open and budgeted.
With a strategic approach, you’ll find that you always finish the tasks you start and systematically get through your goals. And this approach is perfect for completing a complex project in time for a deadline. When a deadline rolls around and you’re not ready to present your project, you can easily explain exactly what you have left to do and how much more time you need.
Bonus: Don’t go it alone
What you think is a top priority may be entirely different from what your manager thinks is a top priority. The things you think are meaningless just might be the things they consider make or break for the project.
Going it alone prevents you from fully understanding the requirements and expectations set by your manager. Instead, as you develop your strategy, create and write out your own order of importance. Think of all the possible alternatives that your manager might consider.
When you finalize your plan of attack for the project, request some time with your manager to talk out your strategy. Detail your own reasoning for why you found some things more important to focus on than others. Ask if you are correctly judging each part of the project.
Doing this will allow you to properly target your work to match the expectations of your manager. It will also allow you to tweak your strategy to better focus on those expectations.