Inspiring Your Team to Complete Key Projects

Tags: Leadership, Performance

I find that many executives need a brief refresher course in order to inspire their team to take a project from conception to completion. A project is about getting something complex, with multiple steps, completed. It can be a new concept or a familiar one. Today we will look at two different styles of project planning and execution.

Juana Craig in Project Management Lite states that a project:

  • Has a beginning and an end (“plan, work, close it out”)
  • Achieves an outcome resulting from a series of steps
  • May involve a budget
  • Usually involves a team

Craig adds that leaders need to:

  • Define the project
  • List desired outcomes and utilize a completion checklist
  • Fill out a worksheet for the project including goals, tasks, and assignments with due dates
  • Devise a plan and budget, if needed
  • Implement the plan and keep written agendas and minutes of meetings (many find minutes are a great generator of next-step goals)
  • Utilize mind-mapping tools and applications
  • Keep everyone informed
  • Review progress at set intervals
  • Solve any problems that may arise
  • Complete the project
  • Determine the metrics of success using the completion checklist
  • Celebrate completion with all participants

I like that Juana Craig gives many specific examples in her book. I also want to refer to David Allen’s classic book on productivity, Getting Things Done. In his book, Allen outlines several processes and ideas for maximizing productivity and completing projects.

Allen outlines the key ingredients for starting a project:

  • Clear outcomes and next actions (Vertical focus).
  • Reminders to review tasks on a daily basis (Horizontal personal focus).

Allen says first to create a basic outline with your team. However, be sure the outline emerges from the team’s relaxed and casual discussions. I find that sketching out a ‘backbone’ plan is then quite simple, and is vital in giving the project forward momentum. Without this clarity the project usually becomes unfocused and slows down.

A pen and a piece of paper is all you need to get started on the vertical plan of a project. Remember Allen believes the casual chatting about why a project is important and about the positive difference it can make is key in the early stages of process design. He adds that visioning, brainstorming, and organizing are also important. Once the vertical plan is clear in an outline, then horizontal “next-step” goals can be pursued by task and time frame priorities. Many companies offer software programs to assist with this, as well.

Below is my own interpretation of Allen’s five-step project plan. I have added a sixth step that I feel is also important.

Six-step Project Plan:

  1. Define the purpose – Why is this project important?
  2. Visualize the outcomes – Constantly revise and create clear goals
  3. Brainstorm – A great example of this is to “mind-map” a project where the name is in the center and aspects of the project come off like branches of a tree
  4. Begin to organize – Start to order ideas and tasks
  5. Identify next actions – Put deliverables, due dates, and goals on a tracking tool and put key meetings and deadlines on a calendar
  6. Follow-up and sustain progress – After project completion, check to ensure the result is working as planned

With early, casual, and relaxing discussions, we begin to visualize potential paths to achieve project outcomes. By brainstorming and collaborating, we calendar goals, record next-step actions, and log task completion. Remember from a previous blog  that two research projects demonstrated that groups who socialize more combined with respectful interactions are most productive. Clearly social interaction also leads to optimal organization and eventual project completion.

Good luck on your next project!



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