Success on a project, in business or in life can’t be achieved until you start. Layering is an approach that increases your chance for success. The concept is simple:
- Break the project into small parts
- Repeat this process with more layers of complexity
Layering is used often in life- it’s the way people learn. Think about it: a child doesn’t start writing the first day she’s born. First she develops the simple sounds for communications. Then she starts speaking in words and eventually sentences. Then she learns the alphabet etc. After each phase she’s improved and can show significant progress toward the end goal. Try it in your life and you’ll see its powers.
This document was written based on layering techniques. Each section adds more details to the previous one. Here’s what you’ll find:
- How To Layer Your Project
- Benefits of Layering
- How To Using Layering In Your Project
- Real Life Layering Example
- Read More About Layering
How To Layer Your Project
The layering concept is quite simple and you probably already do it for some of your projects. This section will provide you with more details on each step.
1. Break the project into small parts
Simplify the project requirements. Outline the requirements. Determine the breaking points of what can be “released”- these are the layers. The key is to make each layer large enough to be significant, yet small enough to be quickly possible.
Make your results public. Set appropriate expectations so no one expects the complete project done. This may involve revealing your full project plan. Solicit feedback so you can make your project better.
3. Repeat this process with more layers of complexity
Based on your feedback from step 2 revise your project outline. Pick the next priority task and repeat this process starting from step 1 until you’ve completed your entire project outline.
Benefits of Layering
- Show results- Layering allows you to see results from your actions quickly. This will help get more buy in and give you the confidence to succeed.
- Build Team Morale- With small but constant victories teams get the satisfaction of winning.
- Benefit from the results- You can begin benefiting from work work quickly. You don’t need to wait for the whole project to be completed.
- Learn from success and failures- You can learn from the feedback of your launch and it can help set the direction of further phases of your project.
- Helps determine priories- After you launch a layer the next need will become more obvious.
- Determines the project’s viability- Once you get your feet wet on the project you may find that the project is more complex that originally thought and it may not be worth it to continue. This helps you cut your losses.
- Doesn’t get bogged down in details- The longer a project continues the more likely it will get held up for small details. Layering may allow you to launch without the details fully developed and then you address it in a future launch.
How To Using Layering In Your Project
Here are the steps to getting that big project done:
Identify the goal
Before you achieve success you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish. What problem are you trying to solve? What will success look like? Now we’ll apply layering to get it done faster.
Break down the project. Identify some quick tasks you can accomplish (next actions) and get them done (launch). They will not be a full project and will have many holes in it but you will have something to show for your efforts. Congratulations, you’ve already succeeded more than most people who are only thinking about it.
Based on feedback on your initial launch perform tweaks to make it better/more usable/more professional. These changes may look like obvious needs in hind site. The tweaks shouldn’t cover new ground. Rather they are simple ways to make your initial output stable and usable.
Keep building on your initial success. Identify the most important steps to get to the next goal. Are there any small talks now that can get you more success?
Identify more wins. Some parts of the project may be more complex, but keep trying to break it down into small launchable parts.
Real Life Layering Example
After taking over a new team of employees Mike was confronted with daily fire drills when tasks weren’t being completed on time.
Identifying the problem
When investigating the issue finger pointing ensued over who was supposed to be doing the specific task. The problem was each type of task had a distinct workflow that not everyone on the team was aware of. Further the handoffs of tasks weren’t sufficiently formalized so even when a task was handed off there was no record of who had it.
Mike realized the ideal solution would be a task management system but initiating it would take months and the resources weren’t available because they were too busy fighting fires. So he broke down the tasks: He identified and communicated work flows. That helped. Then he build a spreadsheets for each type of issue with the work flow steps identified with owners and dates. Another small victory, by now fire drills decreased substantially.
Now that the work flows were formalized, Mike and his team discovered ways to tweak some work flows. He adjusted the spreadsheets and communicated it to the team.
Although the work flows became more clear fire drills weren’t completely eliminated because of some inherent limitations of Excel. He initiated some manual processes and checks and balances to ensure that tasks got done on time.
With a relatively stable environment and the requirements crystallized, Mike enlisted one of his team members to begin initiating a task management system. Building a full system would have taken a long time, so they started with just a system to mimic the current excel tracking and initiated a few minor improvements. After this was successfully introduced more features were added. Then more features. Until one day Mike’s initial vision was realized and the fire drills were eliminated.
Big projects are daunting. Just keep it simple and you’ll succeed.