Amber Simonsen, PMP, is a senior project manager at
Alaska Airlines, Seattle, Washington, USA.
strategy, I set up a planning session with senior
leaders from across various departments (e.g.,
brand experience, corporate communications,
e-commerce) to plan the execution of this massive effort. I took them through the four steps of
1. Identify: We identified our stakeholder groups
(customers, elite loyalty program members,
2. Prioritize: We prioritized the stakeholders, ensuring we had clarity on the most important groups.
3. Ask: I asked each of our stakeholder groups
a core question, and we crafted answers starting
with the word “wow.” In this case, our core question was, “What do we want stakeholders to say on
launch day?” We wanted customers to say, “Wow!
My favorite airline keeps getting better.” We
wanted employees say “Wow! It’s fresh, modern
and honors the past. I’m even more proud to
work here.” We repeated this process for each
of our stakeholder groups.
4. Revisit: Finally, we made sure we had identified our top three or four stakeholder groups
and that the participants agreed we could
deliver on the Wow! Statements.
There are two benefits to using this tech-
nique. First, it creates a set of short,
memorable goals that can
be used throughout
the project. Sec-
ond, the act of
your team in a
of mind. As
author and psy-
in his book, The Happiness Advantage, people are
more creative and produce more innovative solu-
tions when they have a positive mindset.
MAKING DREAMS COME TRUE
Once our most important stakeholders articulated their goals, we moved into planning the
project scope. This involves determining what we
would need to do for the goals to come true. In
my project, for the employee Wow! Statements
to be true, we needed to ensure that everyone felt
invested in the new brand. This led to a robust
change management plan consisting of road
shows at different corporate offices and large
airports, a live webcast of the reveal, an intranet
takeover and branding key employee workspaces.
As we got closer to the big reveal, we had
to make tough decisions regarding scope. For
instance, we discovered that the complexity of
hiding a Boeing 737 meant we couldn’t paint
more than one plane in advance of the launch
day. We checked our Wow! Statements and realized that as long as we had good photography
for the media and had one repainted plane at
the launch, we would still be able to achieve the
All 12 major projects comprising the brand
program were complete when launch day arrived
in late January 2016. Glowing reports from
employees, the media and our executives poured
in—reports that essentially matched the statements we’d hoped they would say. We achieved
success not because of good metrics, but because
our most important stakeholders were wowed.
All project managers have the ability to drive
teams to go beyond delivering on time, within
budget and within scope. We must lead our
teams to uncover the true aspirations of executives, customers or employees. Only then can we
really deliver projects that wow. PM
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