Q: I was on a project last year that was eventually shelved because it was losing money, wasn't properly staffed, and was generally not meeting its objectives. Now this year, the project has been restarted and I'm back on it. Nothing much has changed; what can I do to help it go better this time around?
A: This is a great chance to use "lessons learned" to guide your efforts.
The inner game
First of all, although things may not appear to have changed, if you look under the surface, there are probably some differences. These will warrant substantial focus, because they'll be your leverage points.
One thing that will be different is you. Start with your understanding of your work environment. What experiences have you had within the company in the past year that will help you be better prepared to get this project off the ground? Consider your understanding of the company's culture and the politics that drive action.
Then look inward. Did you use your strengths as fully as you might have last time around? And reflect on whether there are ways you need to grow in order to be better able to get the results you seek. For example, if there are team conflicts that interfere with getting the work done, you'll need strong negotiation and leadership capabilities to get people to rally around a shared vision.
Now look at changes within the company itself. Who has departed? Who is new? How has the balance of power shifted? Determine if the reasons for doing the work have changed and identify any modifications in the objectives.
Even though there is a history for this project, you'll increase your chances of success if your actions are based, at least in part, on a "clean slate" approach. Even though you may have known all of the key stakeholders for some time, set up meetings to interview them about their hopes, goals and concerns related to the project.
You'll need to revisit your project plan, too. Question your assumptions about what needs to be done, the staffing models, timelines and resources. While any changes may be subtle, your new plan will be a better fit with current circumstances.
Get your team on board. If people are skeptical, explore their concerns respectfully and look for ways for this to spur improvement. If you can't build support with certain individuals, try to get them replaced on the team, because you're going to need people's enthusiasm.
Mark out a lot of milestones, including some that are fairly easy to achieve. Use recognition and celebration to build momentum among team members and confidence among company executives.
If you can't get yourself on board — if you don't believe in the project — you need to do some soul searching on whether it's the right fit for you. Look for ways to communicate your concerns about the fit of the role with your boss, ideally also identifying a different way you could contribute at your firm. Or, if absolutely necessary, consider whether a move would be the right thing.
The last word
It's a challenging situation, but viewing it with fresh eyes will increase your chances of success.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.