Communicating Project Progress: How to Keep your Project in the Executive Picture

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Communicating Project Progress: How to Keep your Project in the Executive Picture
Chloe Xu, Consultant, Australia

The Bright Shiny Object Syndrome, also known as Objectivius Shinium Syndromus, refers to the attention/attraction to objects that exhibit a polished, gleaming, or shiny appearance. But most of the time the attention/attraction to the object fades after a while, as it's shininess wears off.

Today, a similar phenomenon is common in organizations, as leaders attempt to keep pace with an ever-accelerating business cycle. Projects that looked appealing initially are often abandoned for other (and possibly diametrically opposed) big ideas. Executives want to get problems resolved and quickly, while large-scale projects require time. How can you avoid your project is loosing its shininess and is being abandoned by executives?

Miller (2016) suggested a three-step approach for staving off executive impatience that leads to killing off promising projects:
  • PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION. This is the most important element in the process. Get clarity on exactly what problem your project is trying to solve, and then decide how to measure if the problem is being properly addressed. Be careful of having multiple KPIs, because attempting to measure several KPIs at once can make progress appear slower.

  • LEADERSHIP INVOLVEMENT. Although executives are strategically involved in company projects, they are rarely personally involved. An effective strategy on maintaining executives’ attention is to give them some simple tasks that relate to your project. This also tells your co-workers that someone at the highest level in the organization cares and understands what you deal with day-to-day.

  • VISUAL AND VISCERAL UPDATES. Regular project updates provide a great opportunity to give your project more time to take root. When presenting to executives, a 2:1 ratio of reporting (2 successes to 1 challenge) is best. This shifts the focus into positive aspects and demonstrates to the executive that the project is progressing. Making your updates as visual as possible is another strategy, which connects the executives to the visual (and emotion-based) side of their brain and makes them perceive the project in a more visceral way.
As a project leader, do you have any further suggestions or tips to keep projects in the picture and going ahead?

Baldoni, J. (2013). Are 'Bright Shiny Objects' Worth your Time (and Money), Forbes
Miller, J. (2016). Executive Ritalin: 3 Steps that Prevent Leadership from Killing your Project, SmartBrief


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