In my last post, I identified five leadership practices that help you prepare for a successful SPC Software launch. When it comes time for the actual launch, it can be a kind of white water experience where everything is coming fast. Your prep work enables you to enter this white water with a steady hand and clear eye on your goal.

Here are five more practices that will help you successfully navigate the actual deployment cycle.

Practice 6: Host a kick off meeting that creates alignment of all to the common goal

The first hour of the first day of the project launch, host a kick off meeting with all the stakeholders. Your core team will of course be there, but invite your boss, and all the people who will use and engage with the system. Go back to your vision for the value of real-time data for the business. By now, you should be sick of hearing yourself talk about it, but you’re not the audience. Make sure everyone knows why this is important.

You’re managing expectations here, so give enough detail that the entire team knows the priorities and big picture goals for the project launch. Don’t give so much that they go numb – save that for the core team.  This is a good time to tell stories about why this is important, and why business as usual isn’t good enough anymore.

In 30 or 45 minutes, dismiss the big group, and focus your attention on drilling into the detailed project plan with your core team. Give them enough detail that they see the forest, but move them into the trees because by now they’re ready to get down to work.

Deployments often start with training, and it is good to dive into that as quickly as possible because that core team should be ready to go by now.

As you proceed through that first day, take the pulse of your team individually and collectively. This can be as simple as “How’s it going? Is this making sense?” Come back to that periodically every day during the project. Some other questions that are good standbys are:

  • Are we on track with where we thought we would be by now?
  • Do you anticipate any road blocks ahead?
  • Do you need anything from anyone who is not here?
  • What do you need from me to be successful?

“Pulse checks” are especially important when you’re called away from the team, as will certainly happen. They let people know you care, and give you an opportunity to stay in front of problems and clear road blocks.

Taking the pulse of your team regularly means that you must plan absences. Unless this is a very small project, it isn’t realistic that you and others won’t have to tend to other duties during this project. Make sure the team has what they need to carry forward without you. And if one of the team members has to leave, make sure you know about it in advance so the rest of the team can plan for it. Few things take the air out of a collaborative than to have key people disappear unexpectedly.

Practice 7: Maintain a sense of urgency and focus

As a leader, it is up to you to create and manage a sense of urgency and focus for the team. Continually remind people how important this is, and keep the pressure up to show tangible results at each step of the process. Without urgency and focus, the entire project can turn into a scope creep fiasco. Don’t let that happen.

The project will be at the highest risk for scope creep  as people begin to catch your enthusiasm and vision. You want them to catch your enthusiasm, but you have to keep a tight rein on the scope. This is a great place for a Parking List. Dedicate a flip chart page or section of a white board to a parking list. Anytime someone says, “You know, it would be great if …”, say “Great idea. Put it on the Parking List.”

By keeping the Parking List visible, you’ll collect all those great ideas, and you can weigh all of them as the project unfolds without burning time chasing every shiny object.

Keep it simple to start.

Practice 8: Wrap up each day with a review of the accomplishments

As you come to the end of each day, reserve 10 or 15 minutes to gather and quickly debrief. You can use the same questions you’ve been asking during your pulse checks, but these are different because everyone is involved, and you’re reflecting on the progress for the entire day.

While you’re doing these, you’ll naturally be planning the next day. Hold those plans lightly for now. Just watch where the energy is, and where it is lacking. This is also a good time to review the Parking List to see if there is anything the really must be addressed now. Provide support, encouragement, direction, and correction as needed.

Practice 9: Kick off each day by establishing clear, shared objectives. Write them down.

When you come in the next day, pull the team together and hold a very brief kick off meeting. Overnight, you (and others on the team) may have some new clarity about direction so it is useful to reset these every morning, not the night before. Jot clear objectives down on a white board or flip chart. It is important that they be visible so the team can come back to them as they work through the day.

Practice 10: Celebrate success and thank the team

Throughout this process, the more honest and direct you are with the team, the better off they’ll be. A good motto for feedback is “Give criticism privately. Celebrate success publicly.” Without being a Polly Anna, look for every opportunity to celebrate success. Your team is working hard. Make sure they know you know it, and that you appreciate it.

What about you? Which of these practices are already in place in your business? Were are the opportunities to fill in the gaps and pull your people together for success? Email me at ejmiller [at] hertzler [dot] com, or post a comment below. I’d love to hear your perspective.

Open Part 1 of 2 in a new tab: GainSeeker Kaizen – Leadership for a great launch