Often, important projects reach a point where they stall, moving sideways for a time, or even backwards. This occasional drifting is typical when the mission is substantial. As change projects unfold, the details pile up, some elements don’t perform as hoped, and the team can experience dips in enthusiasm. So, how can the pacing of the project be improved?
Periodically it’s critical to revisit the ‘why’ of the project; to refresh the mission in the minds of its stakeholders and change agents. I note that in baseball, base runners go back and tap the base between pitches, reminding themselves of the current situation and the next immediate goal. Project teams can find renewed focus from ‘touching the base’ and aligning again with the objectives of the change. The ’why’ will help crystallize the purpose of their efforts and help determine an immediate path forward.
Another way to renew energy is to have a ‘Did It’ meeting, not just ‘Do It’ meetings. Projects can be exhausting. There are to-dos after to-dos, followed by more to-dos. Periodically recognize what’s already been accomplished. Little victory celebrations, without dwelling on what’s ‘not done’ can be very energizing. I’m reminded by the image of an overstuffed napkin holder. Like to-dos, these napkins can be frustrating because you can’t get just one out if they are loaded too tight. Accomplishments, on the other hand, look like a neat group of already released napkins, arranged in a fanned circle that lets them be enjoyed and admired one at a time.
Also, avoid expecting 100% completion of a task, or its perfect performance. Initially, accepting about 80% resolution can propel progress. Describe a path to that in the next 24 to 72 hours. Change leaders must develop the skill to break down tasks into parts that can indeed be figured out in one to three days. You’ll return to the unfinished bits, but meanwhile you’re moving ahead. Those unresolved parts, usually exceptions to a main process, can be deferred for a bit with later re-assignment to a sub-team.
When you hit that rough patch in your project, you can get back on pace by describing again the meaningful value to come from the change. By helping the team to visualize the outcomes that are on their way, you’ll be filling their tank once again to drive ahead.
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Doug is an experienced financial executive who helps deliver positive change throughout organizations. He is passionate about achieving continuous improvement in ways that benefit employees, customers, and shareholders.
Doug Berg linkedin.com/in/douglasrogerberg