So you’re about to launch. You’ve done a great job planning and executing this project. And you’re almost ready to unveil your baby to the world.
And this is when people start coming up with new ideas and suggestions. Often it’s a major decision maker such as your boss who thinks a new feature or two is needed. Do you rework everything? How do you consider everyone’s feedback and respectfully decline the advice? That all depends on many factors. In the end, you need to decide what’s the gain. And some of that advice comes from someone you can’t ignore.
What now? Do you rework everything? How do you consider everyone’s feedback and respectfully decline the advice? That all depends on many factors. In the end, you need to decide what’s the gain. If it’s a lousy idea, it’s easy to dismiss. But good ideas at the last minute are very tempting to implement. You have to decide whether they are worth the cost. Make a honest analysis of what the costs and benefits of a change will be. That last-minute idea could make your launch a success.
But even so, the last-minute ideas can derail the most well run project. It’s tough when someone ignores all your planning and work. Where were they when you planned this thing? Now that all the work is done, they want to tell you what you should have done. Implementing a last-minute idea or two could delay launch.
You know what I do? Enforce an idea embargo. While planning a project and creating a time line, I mark the day that no new ideas will be accepted. That’s right. After that day, keep your great ideas to yourself because we have work to do.
I’m not advocating restricting people from contributing to your work. Encourage people to contribute early. The embargo is simply the last step in a series of communications. Seek lots of input. Early.
First, you need to communicate your project schedule. Include dates for each step. That includes idea embargo and project deadline. The embargo cannot be a surprise to anyone. Everyone in your group needs to be aware of the time line.
Get everyone involved in a brainstorming session. Get their ideas now. But this isn’t the final idea harvest. You need to stay open to feedback.
Announce your progress as you complete parts of the project. Show off what you have done and solicit more feedback.
Ask for advice or bounce your ideas off individuals. Include as many perspectives as you can. Give people chances to contribute more ideas.
You need to foster an environment that lets people contribute. They need to feel they can add something beyond their daily tasks. All of this will be a waste if they stay silent because no one listens to them anyway.
At no point are you required to implement every idea suggested. You need to use your best judgment. And you need to communicate why some ideas won’t be included. There will be good ideas that aren’t right or economical for a particular project. The key is that you are using your judgment early in the process.
Even after you declare the embargo, don’t write your project plan in stone. I know what I just wrote. But you need to recognize that markets change, glitches arise and assumptions are wrong. Schedule testing moments when you question how things are going. You may need to adjust ideas and procedures. The key is to recognize change happens and try to plan for it.
Of course none of this will prevent the last-minute idea or change. Scott Belsky of Behance writes that there is a good reason for this:
“Some of the most productive leaders we have interviewed suggest that their greatest realizations often come at very inconvenient times – often when it is almost too late to change. The reason is obvious: brain power is concentrated and more able to grasp the tangible outcome of a project only in the final stages. While the team may want to discourage any last minute changes, you will also want to capitalize and capture these insights.”
Scott writes that you don’t want to discard good ideas simply because they came after a deadline. He advocates patience and feels that will lead to more meaningful engagement. Hey, I’m all for meaningful engagement. I’m just saying you need to start it earlier.
I’m going to stick with my idea embargo. Simply because it puts a lot of emphasis on collecting ideas and engagement very early in the process. That cannot hurt no matter what you do days before launch. By seriously including many views in your planning, you reduce the likelihood someone will have last-minute ideas. Those ideas are collected earlier.
When I figure out how to schedule unforeseen problems, I will let you know.