Making a difference by design…
Back into the swing of things…
One of the things that I keep a close eye on when it comes to product development projects is momentum. To me, momentum in a project is critical.
Lose momentum and it is so much harder to get the project back up and going.
Momentum is a good thing. Just ask a kid on a swing.
It is a bit like trying to get fitter. It is hard to get to get going on that first run. It hurts. But once you’ve been going a few times it gets easier. Not just your fitness, but little things like you know what outfit to wear, what shoes to grab, it all becomes so much easier after that first time.
Momentum is also why you don’t want to have too many projects on the go at the same time. Too much switching between projects is not effective. Not only do you have to re-familiarise yourself with what you did last week which means re-doing something, it also takes the motion out of each project.
I compare it to the circus act with the plates swirling on sticks. Too many and you can’t keep them all in motion and they start to wobble. And it costs extra time to give the wobbly ones their momentum back, which means others start to wobble… a slippery slope.
With momentum comes movement and focus, it makes the work so much easier.
There are a few tricks to create momentum in a project:
- Have a ‘Start’ meeting. Mine are just 5 minutes with everyone who might be working on the project at some stage in the room. I share briefly what the project is about and ask each person when & how often they want to be involved to do their job well.
- Set up a cadence: weekly meetings with the active team, monthly updates for the project sponsor and for those who are involved in the later stages (so they know the train is moving and heading their way). You might have some agreed ‘sprints’ for parts of the project too.
- Stick to the meetings – do not move meetings. Never. Not even if you’ve got nothing to talk about. It will be a short meeting, but still have it. (and really, nothing to talk about is a problem!) And if you can’t be there, have someone else replace you (and make sure they understand how important momentum is.)
- Declare your mission to the world (or at least the rest of your company) – explain what you and the team are setting out to achieve. Declaring it will make people ask how you’re going. Which keeps you on task. (Don’t state a market date yet, unless its mission critical, confirm it once you know you can achieve it. Until then it is a ‘wish’ or ‘aim’ date.
- Let in the sun – don’t be so attached to the outcome that you can’t pivot. It’s a creative process and you’ll be learning along the way. Some pivots are likely. And some projects turn out now to be the best idea and get binned. And that is a good thing, at least now the team is free to check out if the next idea has more potential. Take the learnings, share them and move on.
- Measure & show – Show progress. Make it visual (preferably on the wall, so you can’t miss it). Show the stage your project is in and how it moves forward. Draw a horizontal line on the wall with a start and a finish. Put a marker where your project is today and move it along.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
Keep track of what’s happening. And the best way to do that as the project manager is to walk around. A lot of the learning happens inside people’s heads. You can’t see it, unless you talk to them. So ask. And ask them to make their learning visual so the rest of the team can see it and understand it. (The lean A3 or Practical Problem Solving template is a great tool).
And yes, when we went into lockdown, I was worried about all the projects that I know my clients have on the go. Luckily most did manage to quickly move to online meetings and catch ups, ran trials from home sheds and kitchens and kept the momentum of their projects up and the projects going. Which is a fantastic effort. Be very proud! (and thank you NZ government – the wage subsidy certainly helped to keep the projects going.)
Onwards & upwards,
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