Here at Trilix, we specialize in application development, so a majority of our projects are run in an agile Scrum style. For those not familiar with agile Scrum, we start our days with brief “stand-up” project meetings wherein each project team member answers three fundamental questions: what they worked on yesterday, what they are working on today, and if they are blocked to being successful in some way, why. If someone is blocked, the team tries to remediate it as quickly as possible so to keep project momentum. Our clients generally participate in these meetings so that they can hear how the team is progressing on their project and if they can help “unblock” anyone. Often, the term, “blocker” becomes part of their daily vernacular.

There may be resistance at first to tackle projects this way, but it keeps everyone on point. There is no room for meandering discussions or off-topic ideas. As time goes on, these questions can tend to drive all progress in your life: from house projects to even personal goals. It lends nicely to personal accountability.

So, when I think of workplace initiatives or projects that are intended to introduce excellence in some way, such as a new software implementation or a process improvement effort, I like to put it in these simple terms because it makes sense: what has the company done to “be excellent” and propel the company forward, what are they doing tomorrow to further the “excellence,” and what are their blockers to success? They are just good questions to be asking. Simple questions usually get simple answers.

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They are also great questions to ask when a project goes off the rails: basic questions cut out the clutter and eliminate excuses.

A few years ago, I worked with a professional services company that had introduced a new customer relationship management (CRM) system that ultimately impacted their sales team, operations team, and client-facing team members. It had been six months since go-live, and while operations had started to use it, the sales team did not adopt it as hoped, and the client-facing team members were not using it at all. They wanted help figuring out where the project had gone wrong. The CRM system should be the company’s lifeline: it’s where all client interactions get recorded and the company pipelined is managed. As the senior management team started to peel back the layers, they realized that the sales team needed a mobile CRM app, yet the implementation team did not prioritize this critical business requirement. Further, there was minimal integration with other systems, so the operations team had doubled their data-entry work because they now needed to record transactions in their finance system and the CRM.

This project, while it may have been delivered on time and on budget, was really a disaster because the intended users (sales) were not using it and the indirect users now had double the workload. Not to mention the thousands of dollars expended to purchase and help implement the solution. Did they pick the wrong software? Did they not do the required business analysis and due diligence before the project launch started? How does one even begin to fix such a project?

The three key questions can help here, too:

  • What has the implementation team done to make the project successful?
  • What are the blockers to success?
  • What are they doing today to remove blockers and make the project successful?

In this instance, the project team had the right intentions, but the big blocker was that they were not truly listening to their users and addressing their needs. Sometimes, we’re our own blocker.

As the ultimate drivers of change, leaders should always be propelling their company forward. However, you don’t have to be in a leadership role to see how asking these questions can help with personal and professional goals. If you are not seeing success in a personal project or corporate initiative, what is YOUR blocker? What have you been doing to drive things forward and what do you intend to do today to resolve your blockers? These three questions can propel you further ahead simply by asking them.

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