Have you ever taken on a big new project and not known exactly where to begin?
Have you ever been asked by your boss the equivalent of what have you done for me lately?
Have you ever taken a new job and wanted to start off on the right foot?
Have you ever been negotiating a contract with a new vendor, potential employee, or client and can't seem to make any progress?
If so, the solution to all of these questions may be the same answer. This potential solution is to look for a quick win or two and then take on the tough stuff.
Let's discuss these questions one at a time.
In question #1, strategically designing your project plan to begin with tasks that are fairly easy to complete, are highly visible, and are very likely to succeed is good business for two reasons. First, quick successes at the onset of a project helps the team develop a winning attitude which, in turn, helps build positive momentum for the project in general. Second, as the project manager, these quick wins within your group will help illustrate to your boss and others that you are the right person to be leading the project.
In question #2, depending on your company's culture and the culture of the organizations that your group serves, continual deliverables may be required to keep people happy and/or your project funded. That said, starting your project with a couple of quick visible wins followed by other strategically scattered quick wins can help keep your project's stakeholders engaged while you are working on the larger, more complex, and longer timeframe deliverables. Is this approach playing to the crowd, rather than planning project in the most efficient manner? Well, I admit it, yes it is. But if this crowd has input into your job performance and your project's long term funding, then playing to the crowd is a necessary task.
In question #3, when starting a new job, there is a fine line between doing nothing for too long and doing too much too soon. Starting with a couple of well timed, low risk, high value wins can convert your status from 'new person on the block' to 'new high value contributor.' Yes, ultimately you will be judged on your long term performance and a couple of early small successes will fade from memory, but these early accomplishments define who you are as a manager and what you will be as a long-term employee.
In question #4, solving some of the easier, less contentious, bargaining points first is a negotiation tactic specifically designed to
Build trust among the negotiators
Establish a process as to how future, more difficult, items are positioned, discussed, and agreed
Provide momentum toward reaching a final agreement
Illustrate progress to those who are stakeholders in the outcome of the negotiation
Certainly there are many other techniques that can be used to create momentum in a specific negotiation, but getting the two parties to look at each other and say 'yes, I agree on this item' can make it much easier to voice that same statement a second time.
Take note that these four questions represent very different scenarios, but the same technique of looking for a quick win within the context of larger, more complex, issues can provide similar dividends in regard to trust, momentum, advocacy, and cooperation. That said, the next time you are put in a new position of leadership, confrontation, or negotiation, consider actions that are both short-term and long-term. The short-term wins will keep you moving forward. The long-term wins will get you promoted.
The primary advice and takeaways from today's column is to know that:
As a new manager, a few quick wins within your project will help illustrate to your boss and others that you are the right person to be leading the team and can convert your status from 'new person on the block' to 'new high value contributor.'
Finding small quick wins within the context of a larger, more complex, issue help can provide dividends in regard to trust, project momentum, advocacy, and cooperation.
This blog is an excerpt from my weekly nationally syndicated column with GateHouse News Service. My new columns can be found in GateHouse Media publications throughout the United States.
Until next time, manage well, manage smart, and continue to grow.