Your boss schedules a big, “all hands” meeting. What could this be about? You walk in and have a seat, a little apprehensive. You nervously ask your colleague if they know anything, but they feel just as clueless. As the meeting begins,however, you find yourself pleasantly surprised. It’s time for a new team project! Hooray!
Or not? Hopefully you are excited, but if not there are probably legitimate reasons behind your thoughts of worry. Maybe your team isn’t the best at implementing new projects. Maybe your manager is great at the day to day with you and your teammates, but struggles with project management.
There are lots of reasons why projects that should be exciting, challenging, and fun, end up being frustrating weights of discouragement. They usually start off positive, but you often wish they would hurry up and be over, ending what has been a miserable few (or, unfortunately, many) months.
Here are 5 reasons we’ve seen that make projects more difficult than they should be:
- Too Big & Too Fast. Many times, projects just start out too ambitious, plain and simple. Excitement clouds judgment on the size of the assignment, or maybe there’s an immense pressure to complete this for functionality that really was “needed yesterday”. That may be true, but it’s only setting teams up for failure by making hasty decisions to meet impractical deadlines. Even if this project is to promote your company to a more competitive position in your industry, not breaking this down into appropriately portioned steps is a recipe for disaster. It’s crucial to take time disassembling the larger part into smaller pieces, and consider the best strategy for implementation. Taking your time reduces the chances of repeating work due to mistakes, and allows the project to flow more efficiently.
- Isolated Teams. Even without remote work being a part of our everyday lives right now, it’s very common for teams, and individuals, to become siloed. Everyone stays focused on their pieces of the puzzle, and forgets to talk about how to put that puzzle together. While intense focus and drive in employees is great for productivity, those traits become useless if no one is talking. It’s imperative for whomever is managing the project to communicate often, and with plenty of details. Having daily scrum meetings does no good if people aren’t actually talking about what they’re completing, or what is stalled and why. Those delays can have a trickle effect on others, and it’s best to keep everyone in the loop so they can better gauge their output.
- Too much going on. It’s also imperative for the project manager to make sure the goals are focused, without too many parts being worked on at one time. Even though the excitement can rush everyone to fly at it, this will not necessarily result in the project being done faster. In fact, having too much motion at one time can lead to things being disjointed in the end. Plus, we all know that just because it was planned to go one way, it will more than likely shift and change as the project progresses. Having too many initiatives going at one time will increase the likelihood that work will have to be scrapped and redone once you realize it’s no longer in sync. Have chunks lined up in a kanban board or use other organizational techniques to ensure prerequisites are completed and still fit into the flow of the project.
- Wrong Motives. We’ve all been there: a new department head or manager comes on board, and with their new energy comes a massive wave of change. After all, they were more than likely hired to fulfill a specific purpose, and they don’t want to disappoint. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – a new drive and fresh ideas can really breathe new life into a company. However, it can often be an issue if change is just for the sake of change. Many new employees, even directors or managers, often want to prove themselves with different ideas, and can sometimes get lost in wanting to be the hero. The projects generated under these circumstances are often not thought all the way through, and the end goal, or the problem that really needs to be addressed, can get lost in a push for completion. This can lead to employees feeling intimidated and not producing their best work. If you find yourself in this situation, speak up, and be transparent on the issues you’re facing with the project. Bringing awareness may help leaders step back and reassess how to be true to the need, and can get the project on the right track.
- Lost Purpose. Another way a project can be difficult is when the purpose is lost. Maybe it never was really communicated in the first place. Some managers get caught up in getting the job done, that they give each of you on the team a list of tasks, without a unifying purpose behind them. People want to feel connected, and it’s best when they are all working towards the same goal, and can actually identify that goal. Make sure the purpose of what you’re doing doesn’t get lost and that teams really understand why they are so important.
Although projects can fall off the rails, it’s never too late to make an attempt and righting the course. Oftentimes, project managers may feel like it needs to be done and buried, but that can really just promote burnout of everyone involved.
Reassessing the goals and needs, and listening to the employees involved, can make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Learn from the mistakes, and carry on – you’ll be all the wiser for them.