Retail project managers have to take on many aspects with a wide skillset. Generating ideas is one part of the role. But, ideas are only the start. The ability to execute an idea is ultimately what your customers, stakeholders and shareholders are looking for. In fact, without being able to effectively execute and implement different opportunities to actually deliver change, the big idea is only a dream.
The Journey from Idea Inception Through to Execution
From the spark that results in a new idea, there is a journey for an idea to pursue. The early, initial stages are about creating the idea and then crafting into a solution that can be understood.
Following these stages, it’s important to take the idea and make it feasible and realistic. You’ll need to build up the business justification and start adjusting and developing the idea.
Finally, it’s about making it all happen. Using effective project management techniques to progress through to delivery as well as overcoming that fear of failure to take action.
1.The Initial Stages: Creating and Crafting the Idea
The moment of inception: generating the new ideas
Generating new ideas is the starting block for a new project. This could come from several different routes.
An idea doesn’t need to lead to a new project – it could be part of a project or even a much more strategic element.
For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that the idea is going to become a new project. But before that project can be delivered, there are many stages to complete to be able to realise the benefits.
What’s the why?
An amazing new innovation is only useful if it is solving a problem. Otherwise, it’s just a useless and wild pipedream. Understand the reason that makes your new idea so irresistible.
Once you understand this, you’ll be able to win over people to support your idea. You need to be able to explain the benefits of this new concept or approach? Imagine that you were to execute an idea, what would it enable? Would it increase sales? Reduce costs? Or would it improve customer experience?
Get to a point where you can clearly and simply explain the idea and this will be the first step towards implementing your idea.
Next step to put ideas into action: Understand the purpose of your idea and the type of benefits that it would deliver.
Gaining support to execute an idea
New ideas need support to guide them. By having a champion or sponsor on board gives the new idea authority. In addition to this, the support will also give exposure to the new idea. In turn, this will drive more support. So, who will be sponsoring your new idea?
This support extends beyond the early stages of an idea. As the idea transforms into a formal project, champions and sponsors could help with:
- Representing the idea through prioritisation processes
- Getting the right resources allocated
- Gaining approvals and sign offs
Another key point with support for your idea is that you can learn from a wider set of experiences. It’s likely that champions and sponsors have already trodden the path of project delivery. They have had to execute an idea and will have learnt about the opportunities and threats that need to be traversed. In turn, your supporters can share these learnings and advise how to ensure success of your new idea.
Next step to put ideas into action: Find who could support, champion or sponsor your idea and approach them for an initial meeting.
2. Developing the Idea: Making the Idea Feasible and Realistic
Building business justification
The most successful ideas aren’t necessarily the best ideas. One of the key drivers that turns a good idea into something that can be successful is business justification. This gives integrity to the idea.
Oh. By the way, clear business justification makes it so much easier to get more support on board too!
The easiest was it to build an outline business case early on, showing the different benefits and costs that the idea or project will deliver or incur.
Next step to put ideas into action: Start to build an outline business case.
Listening to feedback
Your good idea will not be perfect. It may not even be good for all involved. Your stakeholders will help point out the challenges. They’re going to help you identify the various risks and issues.
The saying is “feedback is a gift”. Well, it really it. It’s a gift that will help you to improve your idea. Firstly, to take advantage of this gift, you need to be willing and open to listen. Understand the feedback, whether you agree with it or not. If it’s been raised, then there is some valid reasoning in there somewhere, so you should find it.
Now, (caveat moment) you may ultimately decide to listen to the feedback and not act on it. If this is the case, make sure that you’re doing this consciously, not through negligence.
Given the useful feedback that you have received, you need to be able to be flexible in your direction to adapt. Don’t be scared to adjust the idea slightly. After all, building in these suggestions will make it easier to actually execute an idea.
Finally, a very important point to keep in mind. The feedback that you receive is on the idea. Not about you. Don’t take the feedback personally. Take it as a gift to help improve the idea.
Next step to put ideas into action: Decide how you will listen to and decide to act on feedback.
Allowing time for an idea to grow
One of the dangerous times for your idea is at the start of life.
Think of your idea as a seedling. It’s just germinated from seed and poked it’s first leaves above the soil. Absolutely, the potential is great. However, the risk to this tiny plant is also huge. There are many challenges to overcome before it will be big enough and robust enough to stand alone.
To execute an idea, you’ll need to be able to protect it from dangers early on. This will include the feedback as discussed earlier!
Next step to put ideas into action: Identify risks to your new idea and decide how to protect your youthful innovation.
3. Making it Happen: Execute an Idea through to Delivery
Capability to deliver projects
The path to execute an idea is probably not a simple, straight forward one. Maybe you’re lucky, in which case, enjoy feasting on the low hanging fruit! If not, then running a project to deliver and execute an idea will increase the likelihood of it being successful.
In turn, good project management capability can be the difference between project failure and project success. It can be the difference between an idea that lands successfully and becomes a roaring success… and a concept that loses support and disappears without trace. Or, worse still, an idea that causes a major problem or wastes time and money for your business.
Next step to put ideas into action: Ensure that you whoever is leading the change is capable of being a great retail project manager. You can read more about what it takes in this article: Retail Project Management: What’s the Difference?
Overcoming the fear of failure
One of the biggest challenges to execute an idea is the fear of failure. Retail project managers could find themselves asking or thinking:
- “What if this doesn’t work out? I know that I’ll be blamed for this.”
- “People will think this is a silly idea.”
- “The business won’t support this and that will make me look bad.”
With the retail industry being in this current, challenging state, it’s easy to see and understand the fear to actually deliver an idea through to completion. Equally though, there should be fear for NOT deciding to execute an idea through to completion.
For retailers in an adverse and difficult market position, I’d recommend that doing nothing is only going to result in ‘more of the same’. Instead, opting for change offers potential, but it has to have clear justification, strong support, be well planned and well executed.
So, given the World Cup is in progress, it seems fitting to quote ex-England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson. He said:
“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure”.
Don’t take inaction as a result of this fear. Aim for success and do it well to maximise your chance of success.
Next step to put ideas into action: You can probably guess… The action is to actually take action! Don’t be the rabbit caught in the headlights. Be decisive and make an intentional move. You may also enjoy reading this article from Inc about overcoming a fear of failure.
Wrapping up: Innovation is not a Substitute for Excellent Execution
Once you breathe life into your idea, you need to help it through every stage to completion. An idea, however novel and innovative, is only as good as the execution and people involved. Being able to excellently execute an idea will lead to successful projects and major business benefits.
About the Author
Oliver Banks is an expert at delivering retail change projects and programmes. He’s led and managed many different types of retail projects, working with a variety of stakeholders. Oliver loves the opportunity to improve and innovate. This brings together his engineering background, his curiosity and his passion for making things better.