Navigating Project Stalls
Project stalls are inevitable, and this blog post is your guide to navigating through them. Drawing inspiration from decades of project stalls in both corporate and nonprofit realms, the catalyst for sharing this insight was a recent experience with a nonprofit board. In a project stagnant for two years, the challenge wasn’t technical complexity but the lack of a clear path forward. The goal? Crafting a postcard mailer for members. Despite a budget and shared expectations, unresolved elements hampered progress. These unresolved aspects included messaging, the status of the nonprofit mailing permit, the choice of postcard size, and the decision on whether to manage the mailing internally or through a service. Without a creative brief or a project plan in place, various board members independently generated conflicting drafts. If the project were a plane, it was stuck on the tarmac for two years, and the passengers were less than enthused.
Project Gaining Momentum
To carry the metaphor further, we needed to get this plane cleared for takeoff. To address this, a comprehensive creative brief was drafted, incorporating input from committee members and specifying visual elements and prioritized messaging. This was drafted in real time during a zoom call since all committee members were unable to meet in the same location. Decisions on postcard stamps, permit renewal, and outsourcing were explored. A workback schedule from the target “arrival in mailboxes” date was also included in the creative brief.
Prototypes and Practicalities
A prototype was created and exposed more peculiarities that didn’t surface in the creative brief discussion. There were no further meetings but email feedback from members helped guide unresolved issues. We resisted the temptation to perpetually change the messaging, relying on the brief which had prioritized messaging that was clearly in the “good enough” to proceed category. There were also tensions that arose from late coming requirements that were in the teams’ blindspot initially. One example is that requirement that the postcard contain the mailing address of the nonprofit with the nonprofit mailing permit.
In Flight Beyond the Project Stall
The project required decisions and actions by many people, eventually leading to an approved draft now in production, reflecting a renewed nonprofit mailing permit and staying within budget. The experience highlights the importance of clear communication, adaptability, and strategic decision-making when tackling projects with nonprofit boards or similar groups. There are many lessons to be learned from getting out of the project stall and getting this project to take flight. These lessons learned could apply to your projects too.