4 Steps to Overcome Your Fear of Large Projects

That queasy feeling in your stomach.  The sheer magnitude of the challenge ahead.  The uncertainty of where to start.  Those first days after taking on, or being assigned to, a large complex project are daunting.

To some, there is a mountain of stress and worry.  To me, I get extremely excited and pumped up!  I have learned these large projects, while stressful at times, provide the greatest opportunity to grow your skills and craft as a Business Analyst.  These are the projects that will help define your career and will be the building blocks to get you to the next level!

Since I am not directly engaged in many projects nowadays, it had been awhile since I had these feelings.  But recently, as I made the decision to take a giant leap with TheBAGuide.com and send it into an area I have little familiarity, one of these seemingly endless and impossible projects stands before me.  

It got me thinking…why don’t I feel as stressed as others when I am about to tackle one of these behemoths?  After some self reflection I realized I tend not to focus on the large scale of the project at hand.  Instead I focus hard on outlining my process to achieve success, and then I take one step at a time.

For those of you who feel the wave of anxiety creep in when these gigantic projects come your way, don’t fear any longer.  Here are my 4 steps to begin any large project.

1. Understand the Problem

Large projects are generally an evolution from numerous critical pain points or opportunities within the business.  The decision is made to try to address as many of the areas of need at once.  While this can be a great idea, this can also cause some initial constraints.  Your first step when being assigned to any project is understanding the problem you are trying to solve.  Get comfortable with why the project was approved and validate what the business is trying to achieve.

2. Define the Scope

Now that you understand the problem, you need to get a grasp on the bounds of the project. Just because the project is big in nature, does not mean the scope is endless.  You need to find and document what those boundaries are.  Fully wrap your arms around what truly will help to solve the problem and get the business to agree on what is in and what is out.  Trust me when I say, when you hit the second half of the project phases, having a loosely defined scope will cause you more stress and heartburn than you can ever imagine.  Clearly define the scope up front, before any work is done, and when those “oh we need this too” enhancements come up, you can easily explain what can be done as part of this project and what will be done in potential future enhancement phases.

3. Make a Plan

I once had one of my Business Analysts say to me, “But Jeremy, the Business Analyst is the person that executes, the Project Manager is the one that does the planning!”  I loved this quote because it was a wonderful coaching opportunity.  What they learned is the Project Manager, is planning out the high level details of the project.  They are not digging into the Business Analysis tasks and determining exactly what needs to be done and when.  The Business Analyst is the maker of their own destiny.  

Not having a documented plan for how you want to move forward and attack this enormous project is like stating, “I want to build a house” and expecting you can handle that as one large task.  A much more successful approach is to take the problem, break it down into manageable pieces, and plan for the solving of each of those pieces separately.  Not only will this be much less daunting, this will also make you more efficient, allowing you to more easily stay on track with the larger project plan.

4. Take the First Step

One you have a plan in place, take the first step.  It does not have to be a big one.  Just take one!  I see too many Business Analysts in project shock and unable to move.  The only way you will ever complete the project, is to get it going.  Waiting and procrastinating the beginning will only set you back and cause more issues later.  Get the ball rolling down the hill and you will be surprised at the progress you can make!

Next time you are about to start down the path of that complex and stress riddled project, undo the knot in your stomach, pull this blog article back up, and follow the four steps to begin any large project.

Written by Jeremy Aschenbrenner, The BA Guide


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