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How to fuel your project with intelligent naivety?

It’s often the case that small things, apparently insignificant, add up to making a big difference. We’re going to focus on two particular ones that we pay particular attention to during the set up stage of any project.

Manage the Stakeholders, don’t let them manage you:

Every organization has a leadership team, but each individual comes with a different background, personality and perspective, so when we get involved in any project we always make it a point to speak to various of the key people who either influence the project, or are important to it in some way that can impact the final outcome. We engage these different stakeholders with open ended questions and often it’s the case that what they don’t say is as important, if not more, than what they actually say. Being open ended is important, so that we don’t “lead the witness”… when speaking spontaneously, we have a better chance of catching the undertow and some of the “unspoken issues”, which might actually be critical for the project’s success. Delivery, Execution conditions, even the definition of what a “successful project” can mean, can be dramatically different for various stakeholders, so ensuring we understand that up front sets us up for a better project management and, consequently, for a better outcome.

Always fight to stay Intelligently Naïve:

Large organizations, working in Consumer Goods, Financial Services or Pharma, typically have a depth of consumer data and (often, but not always) consumer understanding that provide solid foundations to the work that needs to be done. So, unsurprisingly, we make it a point to identify upfront all the knowledge that might be useful to us in the project and make sure that the client gives us access to those reports, docs or people (knowledge doesn’t sit in a PPT or report!!). It’s not unheard that we’ve combed through hundreds of reports from the client but… we’re very careful not to fall into a trap! Why? Because we know that all our clients are full of smart and talented people, so if they’ve reached a certain conclusion by gathering all the data they have, there’s a very high likelihood that we’ll reach the same conclusion, from reading the same data. We are humble enough to not think that we’re necessarily smarter… but we do strive to be and to remain Intelligently Naïve. Which means that we typically choose to handle the material given in a number of different ways – so we don’t land on the same perspective and conclusions as our clients: in the case of small to medium size amount of documents, we’ll have one team member consolidate all the know-how and the rest of the team listen and challenge. We then chase any items or issues that we can’t reasonably find a credible answer for. Alternatively, for larger projects, we’ll split documents across the team and work separately (so that no one person has a complete overview). We’ll then present to each other, to consolidate all the learnings, but while I will be the “expert” on the documents I read through, I’ll be naïve on the others I haven’t seen and make a conscious effort to keep a “detective mindset” in seeing any patterns in the data.

Small things, add up to a big impact in the end – don’t underestimate the value it can bring!

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