By Samuel Hoffmeister | March 21, 2022
So, that project you’ve been working on for weeks, even months, has suddenly been cancelled. All your hard work has been seemingly lost to the ether, never to be recognized with a tangible, completed outcome. That noted, whether it be a cancelled campaign, event, or any other initiative, it doesn’t have to be a total loss.
As a professional who has anything to do with project management, it’s important to first understand that any project can be subject to cancellation. There are plenty of reasons for a project to end prematurely, such as loss of effective timeliness, budget constraints, or shifting business priorities to name a few—the latter two reasons being much more common in today’s fast-moving, pandemic-influenced environment. Note that these reasons are very rarely ever any one person’s fault but simply the product of necessary changes in your association’s focus.
Strategy and Process
While you move on to the next important initiative, there are certainly lessons from that cancelled project you can carry with you. One of those lessons is in strategy.
Evaluate and identify the steps from your process that worked. Ask the following questions:
- Were any efficiencies created, or are there apparent steps in the process that could have been done more efficiently and, thus, more easily?
- Were there too many “cooks in the kitchen” or not enough (or the right) team players involved?
- How many times did you have to go back to the drawing board?
Answering those questions could lead to a more sharpened strategy and process from the start. Don’t ignore the fact that the project could have been done in a more efficient, succinct, and thoughtful manner.
Was your team taking on something it hadn’t done before when embarking on the cancelled project? Perhaps at least one member of your team (probably more) spent time researching, learning, and practicing a new skill or program. Harkening back to efficiency and process, was there proper time allotted for that person to become proficient enough at the new skill? If you didn’t identify a sufficient learning period, that could have been detrimental to the entire team’s expectations of progress on the project.
If you’re the person on the team who was learning the new skill or program, don’t be discouraged and stop learning it. Chances are, if your association was gung-ho on exploring a new area, the cancelled project wasn’t just a one-and-done attempt. Set aside time to continue learning and look for ways to integrate that evolving knowledge into future projects.
Pivoting and Agility
What if your project or initiative wasn’t outright cancelled but forced to change course drastically by some unforeseen factor—you know, like a pandemic? Well, every association was blindsided by COVID-19 this year, and instead of fully cancelling projects or events, many have pivoted to a solely virtual approach in both communications and events.
Going virtual while in the middle of planning requires the utmost agility, and sometimes the entire plan can change. That doesn’t mean you scrap everything that’s been done on a certain project. It just means you have to transform your strategy to best serve the new medium. In many cases, the communication and design conceptsremain, but the project’s final form is delivered to the audience in a more adaptable, appropriate way. There are even ways your association can benefit more from the change (e.g. from an advertising and sponsorship perspective).
Cancelled projects don’t have to be wasted time and effort. If you go about them the right way, they shouldn’t be. Whether it’s process improvements, more effective strategy, growing your skills, or pivoting when you-know-what hits the fan, take away what you can to better your overall association communications and strategy. You’ll be better for it in the long term.