Published in “Project Times” website, January, 2011
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Projects often stall during the holiday season – or, at best, lose momentum. Typically, businesses are consumed in covering vacation schedules, dealing with last minute customer questions or crises (which somehow always seem to come up the hour prior to leaving for the holiday), etc. Therefore, activities not required from a day-to-day perspective stall. Yet, there isn’t a more important time to ensure project success than to rejuvenate after the holidays.
Since many businesses are just emerging from the recession to the new normal business environment, they must capture opportunities as they arise. In the new normal, competition is tough, cash is tight and customers require an elevated level of service. Thus, it is even more important to deliver project results – increase sales, improve service levels, reduce costs etc. Historically, the best time to improve your position vs. your competitors is during a recession and/or emerging from a recession. The bottom line – the time to leapfrog your competition is now.
So, how do you jump start your project on January 3rd? A few keys to success include: 1) Refocus the team on the objectives. 2) Review successes and think leverage. 3) Kick-start the momentum and focus.
- Refocus the Team on the Objectives – It always amazes me how often the obvious is overlooked. One way to immediately refocus the project team is to review the objectives. What is the goal? Why are we focused on the goal? Why does it matter – to the organization? To the team members? How do each individual and the project team contribute directly to a vision worthy of focus? Often, it’s as simple as that. People want to provide value and contribute to a worthy cause. Remind them.
This doesn’t require an elaborate plan or money. It just requires an effective leader – those companies who value leaders and appreciate the value of people will get a jump on the competition.
- Review Successes and Think Leverage – Once the team is grounded in the objectives and why they matter, it’s time to review the project progress in a way that will accelerate progress. I’ve found that one of the best ways to accomplish this is to relate the project progress to the team’s successes to date and to each individual’s contributions. I have no trouble getting engaged in a conversation when it relates to something I’ve done well!
During this process, each person tends to think about how he/she achieved the success or how the team was integral to the success – and, many times, critical strengths (both team and individual) are uncovered. Brainstorm with the team on how to leverage these strengths. Success is achieved by leveraging strengths; not focusing on weaknesses.
- Kick start the momentum and focus – Last but not least, a jolt of caffeine will spur the team to action. Find a near-term yet critical project task and focus all attention on it. There are a myriad of ways to demonstrate focus and priority. Communicate the goal. Explain the importance. Remind each person how they contribute to achieving the task. Be visible. Encourage the team. Appreciate progress. Make sure the project sponsor and other Executives communicate with the team about the task. Find the positives and talk about them. Undoubtedly, the pace of progress will accelerate.
Once accomplishing the task, the team will be energized and rejuvenated. Celebrate progress. It doesn’t have to be costly or complex, yet it will make a difference. Everyone wants to contribute to an important and recognized success. Success builds on success.
Instead of being one-of-the-crowd and slowly getting back into the swing of things following the holidays, use this time frame as an opportunity to hit a grand slam while the opposing team is groggy. Once you have momentum, you’re more likely to not only achieve the project goals but you’re also likely to give your company a jump on the competition.