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The importance of kicking your projects off right

How are your projects going? Smooth sailing or choppy waters?

The truth, is with different personalities, competing priorities, and unexpected challenges, it's not always easy to keep projects on track.


Good planning, regular check ins and post-project evaluations can all play a part in successful projects, but getting the right foundations in place is the most vital step of all.

And the key to that? Getting your project team all on the same page.

Team alignment

In a recent HBR article former manufacturing plant manager Timothy R Clark shared 5 questions to ask to achieve this.

  1. What is your understanding of the project?

To be aligned and committed to a project you need to have a good understanding of it. Asking your team to talk through what they think it’s all about will help you check their strategic and tactical understanding. If their understanding is off, the project is likely to encounter trouble. And by sharing thoughts the entire team will inevitably refine their own grasp of purpose, scope, and objective.

  1. What concerns do you have?

Don’t ask people if they have any – because they inevitably will – ask them what they are. Getting all the concerns on the table will bring up any misalignment before happens and encourage discussions that will hopefully get everyone on the same page.

  1. How do you see your role?

Don’t assume people know their role in the project – or the roles of others. When responsibilities are blurry it can lead to misunderstandings and disengagement. When everyone understands what they need to do and when they need to do it – as different team members will have different levels of influence as the project progresses – there will be overall clarity.

  1. What do you need?

As well as being a practical check in, this question leads everyone in the team to think through the personal, tactical, and strategic implications of the project. In doing this you also get the bonus of a further check-in on understanding and role clarity for the team as a whole.

  1. How would you describe your current commitment to the project?

This gives everyone the chance to share how they are feeling about the project and any caveats, contingencies, dependencies, concerns, and limitations. It will give you a greater understanding of their commitment and any possible competing priorities.

There will always be challenges and shifts in projects, they are dynamic and fluid beasts. But getting your key people on the same page from the off will give you the best chance of success.

Invest the time at the start of the process and you’re likely to save time and energy as the project rolls on.