Embracing Unconventional Project Ideas

Much of project management relies on innovation and creativity. The problems that arise in a project office often require ingenuity to overcome. But along with that ingenuity must come a willingness to break from tradition and to embrace ideas that don’t bear much resemblance to the way the organization has tackled problems in the past.


Coming up with innovative ideas is a topic all its own, but getting project teams and other groups to embrace those unconventional solutions is sometimes the most difficult part of the process. Evaluating new ideas that don’t fit neatly into the organization’s existing structure for procedures can be a challenge. Getting the team on board with a visionary idea often results in pushback. Sometimes, simply determining if an idea that doesn’t look like anything else the organization has ever done is returning the results expected can be a challenge.


Gaining support from internal team members. PMP®s are agents of change, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to human nature. Some people—even those working within a project office—may be resistant to change. This is especially true when the concept they’re being asked to support is unconventional or when it’s unlike anything the team has ever tried. But bringing all of the internal participants on board is crucial, as the success of most ideas hinges on full buy-in.


The hurdle most often faced with internal team members is gauging the idea’s likelihood of success as it compares to the existing processes or protocols in use either within the project office or in peer groups at other organizations. While the current structure may not be perfect, these inside players will be the ones on the hook if the new idea doesn’t work out, so helping them see why and how it will be a success is crucial. Work with team members to identify any potential issues, to address concerns before any changes are implemented, and to develop mid-course solutions that could be implemented if performance isn’t meeting expectations.


Ensuring cooperation from other departments. If an idea will potentially impact operations in other groups—the way Accounting records capital expenses or the process Purchasing uses to place recurring orders, for example—your team may need to win over the people on those teams. Be prepared to fully detail the changes you would like to implement and offer examples of what the workflow will look like under the new process or procedure. In addition, call out specific points where new practices will differ from those currently in use.


As you work through discussions with any affected support groups, expect a lot of questions. They might not have a good grasp on how the solution will look in real life (even after your team does its best to explain it) so consider assigning several contacts within the project office who can answer questions that come up, and who will also be involved in coordinating any training, software installations, equipment upgrades, or other activities that will occur once the unconventional idea is ready to be implemented.


Evaluating the new idea’s real-world results. When new innovations have little similarity to existing processes, it can be difficult to benchmark their performance against how the organization has historically been doing things. One key to overcoming this challenge is to identify the specific metrics that will be measured prior to implementing any innovative idea while also leaving leeway to evaluate additional data points that may arise along the way. It’s also important to clarify how this information will be gathered, since the existing data collection methodologies may not translate cleanly to the new process.

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