Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Last Five Percent Projects

As part of our store improvement, we have a list of projects on an agenda and meet weekly to tackle them. We haven't physically met in over a year, but the process has taken a life of its own. This is a process outlined by veteran retailer, Dave Wallace. As we tackle each item, they're removed from the agenda and new ones are added. Sometimes an item is stubborn and we have difficulty coming up with a solution. I have several personal projects like that right now, and the only solution is to put the project aside until there's a solution present. Fixating on a problem or berating a manager for not having a solution is pointless. I call these the last five percent projects.

If you have an ethic of setting up projects and knocking them down, those last five percent problems will not just go away. Those pesky items will stick around in your head. They are the big fish that got away. Over time, you'll think more about these problems and maybe revisit them later with a solution. For example, technology might not be ready for what you want to do, but in a few years, perhaps it will be. We're there now with in-store kiosks, which have many more options than from when they were on the agenda five years ago.

What you can't do with last five percent projects is insist they be completed. It takes a strong manager or owner to admit they're not ready to tackle one of these problems. Sometimes we get outsiders insisting they be completed, and again there's going to be pushback. If someone wants a last five percent solution, they better show up with the implementation. There's no "handwavium" of just figure it out.

I suppose the most important thing about last five percent projects is they aren't allowed to impede progress in other areas. As Dave Wallace teaches, remove these items from your meeting agenda and stop fixating on them. There is always more to do, more projects in need of completion. I've got about $30,000 of projects on a white board in the store office, and we finally tackled one this month. We had enough money in the bank where we went from crisis survival mode to problem solving mode in about six weeks.  It was nice doing something for the store that wasn't absolutely critical to its survival. We got new carpet and ordered six new fixtures. This is the glamor of retail.