Urgency without direction – that’s every project owners’ worst nightmare. We all hate feeling like our team is running around with their heads on fire yet achieving nothing. But in times like these, when rapid digitization initiatives could be crucial to the survival of your university or higher education institution, urgency may be unavoidable. The trick will be giving your team the direction and focus they need to achieve great things in a short amount of time.

This week, we’re going in-depth on managing for urgency with a few tips on how to make sure your education project doesn’t descend into chaos. They’re useful on any kind of project, from marketing and branding activities to learning development. But first, we have to understand the critical question:

Why does urgency make projects so much harder?

There are only a handful of ways a project can be deemed a failure: you’re over budget, you run out of time, the end product isn’t fit for purpose or it drives everyone crazy. Urgency can be a catalyst for any one of these critical failures. 

Of course, with shorter time frames, you’ll have to work fast to bring it in under the deadline. And faster work often comes with a heftier price tag involved. With all the rush to get the work done under a tight budget, the quality of the project can suffer, causing you to miss the brief. And don’t forget – panic and pressure are contagious. The demands of urgent projects can compound quickly to create a work environment that burns out everyone involved.

Don’t forget that urgent projects are often unexpected, too. That means you may have to build on the fly, without the usual prep work you’d do beforehand.

So given that we understand the dangers associated with urgent projects, how do we mitigate those risks?

1. Take stock of what you DO have  

With urgent projects, your lack of time is a given. But urgency is often a great excuse to add some more money to your budget. Remember the old adage: speed, cost, quality – pick two. It’s also a good idea to review your team’s abilities. Ask them if they have any skills you might not yet know about. Tricks like automation and APIs programming can speed up some tasks dramatically.

2. Queue priorities, not time

Given that running out of time is a high risk for your urgent project, it’s a good idea to flesh out a minimum viable output before you start work. Not only will it give you the easiest possible goal to reach, but the building blocks of your MVP make obvious priorities for your team. Working to priorities over time slots allows you to ensure the bulk of your work is spent on project-critical activities.

3. Choose outcomes over tasks

Your job right now is to find the fastest route to achieving your goal. That might mean throwing out your usual working processes to power through to something that’s ready to ship. Be warned though – outcome prioritization offers a fine line between efficiency and deficiency in terms of quality.

4. Don’t be afraid to stop working

If you’re going to get the most out of your team, they need to be functioning on all four cylinders. The only way they can do that is with adequate rest and a relaxed, focused attitude. Sometimes the best use of your star writer’s time is a nap or a long, comfortable coffee break. Remember, mental health is an invisible but vital ingredient to project success.   

5. Cut time-wasters

Long meetings have a tendency to make your time magically disappear. Unfortunately, some team members can also have the same effect. Don’t be afraid to hack out anything that’s going to slow your project down. Consider substituting complex, enterprise-level platforms for lightweight, disruptive ones. Avoid those sit down meetings like the plague. And, if it won’t cause more friction than it’s worth, considering benching tricky team members until this project is over.

Remember, although this one urgent project might seem like the whole world right now, it will soon be a thing of the past. Follow our tips to keep your head above water and visit the rest of The Brand Education blog for more great tips on marketing and brand projects.