Manoeuvring around Project Roadblocks

Do you remember the high voltage excitement and enthusiasm which seems to grip every team member at the launch of any major business project? Wherein targets get discussed and a roadmap is prepared with everyone pitching in with their suggestions? And where the proposed outcomes are highlighted with zest and vigour?

And how about the time when the project finally rolls to completion? I’m sure you remember that period as well, when all are celebrating the success.

Everyone recalls such times. However, how many of you recall the middle phase of the project – a period of setbacks and continuous struggles, and at times depression?

Not many, I feel sure. For almost everyone is so caught up with the beginnings and endings that they subconsciously avoid analysing and appreciating the middle phase of any project launched. No one likes to be reminded of the wrong strategies and failures.

But fully appreciating this ‘struggle’ of a mid-level phase is crucial – for it would keep future strategies in right perspectives.

So, in this post, I’d try offering ways in which leaders and teams can cruise past middle-of-the-road hurdles and setbacks, and keep up their spirits for achieving the end-goal.

Try Incorporating a Central Project Management Department

At V-Mart, we have a dedicated Project Management Office (PMO), which sets out how the Projects would unfold. It has created a what we call the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which is a process that sets a project’s scope by breaking down its overall mission into a cohesive set of synchronous, increasingly specific tasks.

The WBS accomplishes the following:

  1. Echoes project objectives
  2. Offers a logical structure
  3. Establishes a method of control
  4. Communicates project status
  5. Improves communication
  6. Demonstrates control structure

The middle phase of any new venture is bound to be volatile, for without it nothing new gets accomplished. One needs to be resilient to bear the ‘lows’ and manage the ‘ups’, and vie towards making successive ‘lows’ less impactful and the succeeding ‘ups’ more progressive.

Ways of Managing the ‘Lows’

  1. Celebrate Short-term Milestones: Agreed that the metrics to determine true success might not be handy during the middle phase of the new venture; but you can always devise mid-term milestones and applaud the team while celebrating these mini steps to the end-goal. Such short-term successes not only increase the feel-good rush of adrenaline but keep your team motivated to repeat such successes.
  • Remain Objective: While it is crucial to keep the team motivated during the turbulent middle phase, ensure you as the leader is not falsely glorifying mid-level success. Remain objective and analytical so that you may introduce the required tweaks to the program to ensure you are moving in the right direction.
  • Be willing to Endure: It is imperative to exercise patience and not expect results overnight. You must bear in mind the gestation period of the new venture and accordingly set expectations.

Ways of moving up the ‘Highs’

  1. Re-analyse Resources: As you forge ahead during the middle phase, you might feel tempted to introduce fresh people in the project with rising volume and intricacies of work. However, before you blindly rush to recruit more people, analyse the current team’s capabilities. Often, all that is required is a bit of edition / addition to the existing roles rather than pulling in more people. On the contrary, randomly increasing the manpower might limit inventiveness on part of the existing team.
  • Be Decisive: Though it is good to seek team advice from time to time, a good leader never flounders when making decisions. And these decisions must be conveyed to the team with your full confidence to be truly impactful.
  • Motivate with Examples: Good leaders always make use of every opportunity to highlight motivational and inspirational occurrences. They do so by effective story-telling. 

I’d welcome all to share your own experiences during the middle phase of the new ventures you have initiated.

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