No matter where you are on your professional journey, starting out or established leader, there are times and opportunities where you need to take risks and move out of your comfort zone. Frequently this means creating and tackling a project. Smaller projects, which tend to be shorter term, could include a “one book, one school,” a book club, or starting a Makerspace. A big project might be genre-fying your fiction (and possibly your nonfiction) collection, turning your library into a Learning Commons, or building a new library wing. How do you manage these long-term projects while you are still doing your regular job? Planning is the key.
Whether the project is big or small you will likely have moments (maybe many of them) of trepidation, concern and even a few occasions of “What was I thinking?!” In a new blog I have been following, Belinda Wasser of RocketGirl Solutions presented seven ideas on How to Launch a Big Project. These steps work for small projects as well as large ones and are a great way to keep you on track or help you return if you get off course.
Here are the seven—along with my comments:
- Set the end date before you begin. Wasser says it motivates you. I believe it keeps you on track. Keep in mind the places where you don’t have control over all the parts when it comes to a large project. For example, contractors don’t/can’t always adhere to the original schedule, and things do go wrong.
- For small projects, if you don’t have an end date, you are likely to let daily tasks get in the way and the project will not only never be completed, it will start to feel overwhelming and tedious. You won’t meet your goal if you don’t schedule the time to keep moving your project forward.
- Break the project down into its parts and create a plan. I have written about my technique of telescoping, microscoping, and periscoping when doing a big project. In telescoping you look down the road to the conclusion of the project as Wasser says for the first step. I also recommend you set additional internal dates for the different parts of the project. On a day-to-day basis you use microscoping to focus on the current step. Every so often you go to periscoping, popping up the periscope to see what’s next to see if everything is on schedule and what you will need to do next.
- For small projects, you still need to know the parts but periscoping will be less of a necessity. If you are relying on others for components of your project, such as getting approval for something, be sure to stay on top of it, nicely reminding that person of the “deadline” and the important part their role plays.
3. Schedule regular meetings. I’ve found librarians rarely do this even for a large project, but if you think it can help your progress, do it. This may be especially important if your project is outside of your library, such as for your state association (Zoom anyone?). Regardless of whether meetings will help, keeping people up to date on the state of the project is important and you should send reports to whomever is involved, particularly the administration.
- In meetings and in reports, focus on the positives. Report on any problems that are surfacing and how you plan to deal with them, including who will be helping you to take care of it.
4. Be decisive. At some point (or several) during a large project, you will have to make decisions. It often is about making some changes to the original plan. It’s challenging enough to take on a big project. When confronted by the need to alter it in some way, the tendency is to try to get the perfect solution, and you can spend time getting a lot of advice. That is what General Colin Powell calls “analysis paralysis.” You don’t have time to waste. Give yourself a short deadline for coming to a decision and go with it. Small projects (fortunately) rarely have these decisions.
- You might change a vendor or product for your starter makerspace or decide to have a theme book club requiring you to have books for participants to choose from. But the decisions shouldn’t take much time.
- Be prepared to spend extra time. You already have a full schedule, and there isn’t much you can do when this happens. You will have to fit in extra time for the project. This doesn’t mean you stay late every day or bring home an inordinate amount of work. An idea can be to create a list of responsibilities you can delegate temporarily so that when this happens, you have a plan. Also, remember to allow for downtime with friends and family during the process or you will be drained and exhausted when it’s complete.
- Small projects need little extra time, but since it can come up be mindful of them.
- Don’t forget the budget. Vendor sites and vendors themselves can give you a good idea of some of the costs. Use social media to ask those who have tackled this type of project to tell you how they budgeted, what were some unexpected costs, and how they handled writing RFPs (Request for Proposal).
- With a small project, many of you will be spending money out of your own pocket. You might buy makerspace supplies or treats for the book club. While this may be unavoidable, look for other funding sources such as your home school association or small grants.
- Visualizing the end. Just as the Vision for your library program serves as an inspiration, visualizing what you will have when you are done will keep you going on the tough days. It will become easier to hold the picture as you come closer to the end. Share the steps with others. Take pictures of the progress and create a display and/or post on your website.
And one more step from me. Celebrate. Be proud of your achievement, large or small. You have expanded the library presence and improved student learning through your vision and courage. It’s what leadership is about.