Napoleon attempted to do one of the most ambitious StartUps in history.He wanted to create a European Union – run by France – 150 years before European countries volunteered to sign up to this plan voluntarily (only it ended up being run by Germany). He should have achieved it. This was one of the strongest StartUps ever. He had the vision, he had the strategy, he had the team, he had the resources….but it turns out he didn’t really have the project management plan to pull this all together.
Not that I’m trying – or indeed would want – to compare myself to Napoleon but I’m now struggling with the same issue. It is enormously difficult to do all the things that need to be done. And what makes this particularly dangerous is that by trying to complete 10 tasks I’m more likely to fail to complete Task 1. When one plate begins to wobble, you chase that and then they all start to wobble.
Let’s put this into perspective. I’ve run big projects, helped set up businesses before. I’m not an idiot. Anyone who gets to senior positions in the agency world is usually pretty competent. Hell, I’ve even adopted a boy from Ethiopia and if you’ve ever been through that kind of process you’ll know that makes me a professor of logistics. But there are more plates and fewer plate spinners.
So here’s what I’m doing about it and maybe this can help other StartUps.
I’m working on a UNIVERSAL project management plan. Sometimes we think we have a plan when we really only have a partial plan. l was involved in starting an agency whose birth was reliant on winning an enormous pitch. So creating an agency and pitching at the same time. It was chaos, people walking out, break-downs…horrible stuff. One of the things I did was to create a several dimension plan (somewhere between four and six dimensions for the physics buffs out there) that covered not only all the elements of the pitch process – like brand concept, overall marketing model, big idea creation, manifesto sizzle edit, campaign executions, rollout, distribution model, various platform mock ups and so on – but also the operational build of the agency itself.
I’ve just realised that what I’ve been doing this time round is partial plans. I need to include the big stuff and the small stuff and the tiny stuff – and put clear timing against it. It’s always a good discipline to work back from a deadline date.
For me that means work on product development, brand building, design, marketing plans, networking, cash flow, web design, ecommerce…and probably a few more besides. I also have the family logistics that I need to plan in…visas, Employment pass, Xmas travel etc.
Within this plan I need to FOCUS better. I’ve just listened to a podcast with the founder of the search engine DuckDuckGo.com who has published a book about getting traction. They worked on one marketing platform at a time, seeing each as a distinct stage in their traction getting plan. Exhaust SEO, then move to Reddit ads, exhaust that, content marketing, print PR, TV PR, business development.
Marketing textbooks would say this is wrong. And my recent career has involved building multi-platform marketing ecosystems for my clients so this seems counterintuitive to me. But now I’m in the grime, I can understand the practical value. I need to go away and think that through…
Finally, I’m learning project management plans also have a human element to it. The more I talk to people, listen to podcasts, read up on stuff, the more efficient I get. The ‘we did this’ or ‘you should talk to x, he knows about that’…this helps you both create the plan and work through the plan. So I’m on it, I just need a bigger piece of paper.