Projects are a lot like wheelbarrows. They are heavy and hard to get rolling. If you stop pushing and put them down at any point, the prospect of picking them back up can feel daunting. So daunting, in fact, it can be easy to leave them where they land. Everyone has felt it and seen it… eye rolls and a stomach-dropping feeling when you are reminded of a project that was supposed to be completed months ago but hasn’t made progress in what feels like a year.
You lack momentum, and, especially with projects, momentum comes from continual progress. How do we gain continual momentum so that projects do not become like a heavy, stagnant wheelbarrow? Let’s dig in and talk about a few ways to be sure projects maintain their momentum.
Establish structure and assign responsibilities
With each project, there will likely be a team of players who need to participate in order to get the project across the finish line. Once the players have been decided upon, be sure to set up a meeting schedule with each team member. Along with meeting rhythms, you will want to establish effective and efficient lines of communication. Ask questions like:
- How will the team communicate with each other?
- How often will you communicate with each team member?
- What updates are expected from each team member?
- How will you manage progress?
It is important that the project team understands who has the authority to make changes and decisions that affect the course of the project. Projects need governance, but they don’t need bureaucracy that can serve to impede progress. Set the expectations at the beginning of the project and ensure that each team member knows what is expected of them for the project to run smoothly and avoid unnecessary frustration.
To get that wheelbarrow in a state of continuous movement, accountability is key! How many projects have you worked on that have taken a lot longer than they should have because no one was held accountable for meeting their deadlines? First, you must set timelines and deadlines for each step of the project. The next step, and one that is often overlooked, is that you must monitor progress.
If deadlines are being missed and timelines have become impossible, call a timeout. Pull the team together and take a close look at the project plan. Be open and candid about the obstacles and reasons for slowed progress. Then, adjust the plan! Sticking with a plan that’s not generating steady momentum just won’t work! Don’t be afraid to deconstruct and rebuild, if necessary, in order for your team to feel like they can once again pick the wheelbarrow back up and keep moving forward.
If you are the project manager, be readily accessible and approachable to your team. Be sure they know your availability and how best to reach you. This allows your team to plan appropriately. During a project, schedules may need to be adjusted more frequently than usual. As often as possible, these schedule changes should be conveyed to the team. Don’t assume that a schedule change isn’t worth mentioning to certain team members. Be open! Include everyone in communication containing information that impacts the project.
Welcome questions and concerns and be a very active listener. For your team to deliver the way you would like them to, you must earn their trust. The best way to do that is to be efficient and effective in your communication with them as well as hear their concerns and address them in a timely manner. If a team member cannot participate in a meeting, be certain someone is taking clear and concise notes or recording a virtual meeting in order to make missing team members feel included and up-to-date. That way, there will be no hiccups or delays in moving the project forward even though a team member was absent from a meeting. Simply don’t allow little bumps in the road to turn into mountains!
Embrace the power of pivoting
This pandemic-era buzzword will always be incredibly important to project management. You have to be able to pivot, if and when necessary. Projects inherently have many moving parts and numerous team members involved. Because of their nature, it is likely that a few challenges will arise along the way that require adjusting, revisiting, or refocusing.
That’s okay! To move things along and not allow for stagnation, everyone must be prepared and ready to pivot. Without losing sight of the end goal, be flexible on how to get there when bumps in the road arise.
Be positive and enjoy the ride
When you’re trying to keep a project moving along, don’t underestimate the power of optimism. Jon Gordon’s book, The Energy Bus, gives you 10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life. These will help guide you through creating a positive team environment, crucial to pushing a project to completion.
So…where is your wheelbarrow? Is it full of a heavy project sitting in the yard, or is it slowly rolling? No matter what phase of a project you find yourself in, it’s always possible to reignite and regain momentum.