Eating the elephant

I’ve seen it time and time again. An executive wants a to fund a transformational project of specious value but requires multiple years of expensive funding. The executive will work hard on branding an internal projects with acronyms, mythological names, and even custom logos. Aspects such as goals, objectives, features, and (most importantly) risks are either glossed over, not documented, or delegated to employees that may not have the full scope of the initiative well understood.

And when it finally comes forward? It gets eviscerated for poor planning, inaccurate estimates, and the project name is sometimes even mocked.

Worse yet, the project gets funded and falls into a swirling morass of mis-aligned goals, missing user-stories, incomplete features, slow progress, and budget overruns. I’d rather get laughed out of the room and told no, personally.

So what’s an ambitious executive to do?

Create a multi-year strategy that builds toward your ultimate goal system that takes the concept of “eating the elephant” into mind. As you probably know, the idiomatic phrase comes from the question “How do you eat an elephant?” with the answer being “One bite at a time.” Instead of trying to take it all on at once, break your project down into small chunks, organize them using the following as guides:

  • order of operations – does y have to go before x to work? then y should be done first
  • low hanging fruit – are there “quick wins” that can be completed to provide value immediately?
  • slow growth vs. all-in – can you target a smaller population to show value, build processes/documentation, and potentially drive demand for non-included groups?
  • strategic alignment – are there aspects that directly align to a corporate strategy?

Of course, all roads lead to Rome (many ways to accomplish the same thing) and there are other strategies to employ to get to the final goal. I have found the above works for me but it may not work for you. Also, this method may take longer, it may actually be more expensive, but it will get done which is what the goal is supposed to be, right? Then you can let everyone know that “Medusa 2.0” can be launched with great fanfare.