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Navigating through project gridlock

Navigating through project gridlock. Have you ever worked on a project or initiative where you felt stuck? It’s not moving, it’s frustrating, and no one knows what to do. Each conversation you have veers down a different path. Worst of all, you are losing valuable time. When faced with a project that is completely stuck, can a maverick’s skills help unlock gridlock?

After twenty years working in business and technology, I’ve seen many projects get off track. I’ve entered many situations to figure out how to help move a project forward. Like many mavericks I find navigating these challenging situations interesting. Frustrating sometimes, but interesting. Messy situations are often not intimidating to mavericks. Working through these situations is rewarding work. Is every situation “fixable?”

Of course not. This last month I’ve been reflecting on why mavericks are helpful in these situations.

Navigating through project gridlock.

There are several key areas where a maverick can help.

First, a maverick’s skill set can help re-focus the team on the outcome. A project can become very messy once it’s off track. Over time, it is easy to lose sight of why, exactly, we are even here. Fresh perspective provides an opportunity to re-set. There is a renewed focus on outcome for the project or initiative. The outcome should be clear and measurable. Aligning the maverick with the outcome is the first step in this process. This alignment gives the maverick vital information needed to navigate the challenge.

Next, a maverick’s communication skills can help diagnose how you got here. This helps you plan the path forward based on what the individual team member’s value. A maverick’s wilful independence is important. It allows a maverick to withstand hearing all sides to the story. So how does this work?

When projects or initiatives get off track emotions and frustrations often build. And then gridlock hits. Team members can get lost and focus on caring how you arrived in a particular place. We are all human and part of our grieving process may be to let that all out. But it’s also dangerous to stay focused here too long. It can also serve to harden existing positions make gridlock worse.

A maverick focused on outcomes helps the team purge festering, underlying emotions. A maverick understands that there are many versions of what happened. The truth is somewhere in there, but often doesn’t really matter that much. What matters is processing emotions to move forward as a team. What is underneath the emotion is what an individual values. Uncovering those values is vital to crafting the right plan. It also helps make sure the right people are in place to complete the plan.

For example, let’s say you are designing new software. The person building the software is frustrated. What is being asked, “the requirements” keeps changing. It could be that this person values building something thoroughly and completely the first time. Then the individual then values moving on to other things. You could have a different person that values the creative process. The focus is on iterating and improving over and over again to get to the final results. Different people have different values. Uncovering these values is vital to crafting a plan that will actually work. Telling individuals to simply value different things will also fail.

Now that the outcome is clear, initial pain alleviated, and values are understood, the plan is crafted to move forward. I’ve often been surprised at how quickly a plan can come together once this information is available. It’s much easier to plan how to accomplish the work and stay on track once these values are in hand. It also helps the team know if the right individuals are on the project. It allows individuals the choice of how to proceed. This may actually be the perfect time to change team composition if needed based on the outcome desired and values desired.

A Summary of this multi-step process to avoid project gridlock

  1. Bring in the maverick and let them know the outcome that you are trying to achieve.  It is important that you make the outcome measurable.
  2. Let the team purge all their emotions on the maverick so that the maverick can essentially sort through the wreckage. These emotions uncover the team’s values.
  3. With values in hand, craft the plan to accomplish the outcome.
  4. With plan in hand, values clear, outcome clear, the team gets to decide if they are staying to move forward, or exiting because it doesn’t fit.

Navigating through project gridlock.

Project gridlock is not a place most people want to be. Mavericks can balance a focus on the outcome as well as consideration for the people involved in order to accomplish the outcome. A maverick can be your key to unlocking project gridlock to move forward.

Amber Christian
Amber Christianhttps://wonderlysoftwaresolutions.com/
Amber Christian is the founder of wonderly software solutions. Prior to wonderly, Amber spent 18+ years implementing SAP solutions for Fortune 500 companies. Based on her experiences as a small company working with a variety of Fortune 500 companies, she uses human centered design processes to build solutions that address the unique productivity and collaboration challenges in today's work world. Amber is a regular author and speaker on a variety of technology topics.

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