Steps To Executing A Successful Project

Keeping focused on the execution step is key to any successful transition

“We tried that once before and it didn’t work.” This is something we hear all too often when attempting to implement something new. It’s human nature to maintain the status quo. It often comes up when there is a change of management culture; change in the way organizations conduct training or education; change of workflow; even simply changing from outdated tools/equipment to new ones.

It is always disruptive for the ecosystem of an operation to change a system, product or process — especially when it involves the management and performance of the daily cleaning. The most important step to any transition is in its execution.

In the world of custodial management, we tend to wear many hats: manager, planner, cleaner, disciplinarian, trainer, customer service, cat herder and sometimes, scapegoat. However, if we’re always focusing on putting out the fire in front of us, and not stepping back to look at the bigger picture, it can be difficult to implement any type of change. Given the nature of our daily task to keep buildings clean and healthy, it is crucial we understand the concept of effective project management.

The informal consensus in the project management world is that there are roughly five steps to any transition: initiation, planning, execution, performance and continuation/close-out. While there are many subtle nuances to each, execution seems to be the step that dooms even the best laid plans. In my experience, it is the most important step, yet the one in which most projects fail.

There are several steps to executing a successful project. I have found the following considerations be the most critical — albeit most often overlooked aspects of executing a successful project within a cleaning operation:

Asking, “What is the goal of this project?”

It seems simple enough, but after planning and mapping out your path, it can be easy to lose sight of the objective or goal of the project. This is especially true as you prepare to kick off and wrap up the planning phase.

Whenever I’m working with a new client, I always tell them to write down their ultimate goal — and make sure that stated objective is no more than two or three sentences. As preparation for kick-off wraps up, it serves as a simple reminder and can help you stay focused on the task at hand.

Don’t try to go too big, too fast or both.

If you have a staff of 50 cleaning workers, you literally have to account for 50 different ways of doing things. Therefore, start small, engaging one team, one building or one area over a specified time frame. Give your execution plan time to work and document the process. Make sure that you and your project team clearly understand the critical success factors and don’t proceed until they’re met.

If you can’t meet them, take the time to document what has happened and outline possible fixes. Don’t proceed further until this is overcome. This is not only important during project execution, but should be included in your continuous improvement program once you’ve completed the project.

Never forget the human factor.

Of the many facility management related functions, cleaning work relies heavily on humans to perform the tasks. As stakeholders, the custodial staff’s feedback is critical during the execution phase. Use their input to troubleshoot issues and be sure to document these solutions. That being said, make sure that the issues that do come up are legitimate issues with your plan and that you’re not trying to validate human error.

Dr. Michael Berry famously said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Make sure that you clearly document your success factors. This is critical as it gives you a powerful message to ensure that you are able to say, “We tried that before and here’s exactly how well it worked.” 
Ben Walker is the Director of Business Development for ManageMen, Inc., a leading cleaning industry consultancy specializing in training, transitions, auditing and educational materials. In addition to his consulting work, Walker is the author of ISSA’s best selling book: 612 Cleaning Times and Tasks.