Project perspectives: repetition
In my previous article I focused on the first important milestone – the beginning. Now I will consider the next one in the series: repetition, part of the quartet of Starting, Repetition, Evaluation and Completion, and taking us half way through the series.
This and the previous article are loosely based on what I discussed previously in a previous article, the importance of getting your team interested and engaged in the project and subsequent checks with the help of checkpoints.
Repetition can be understood in a number of different ways, and we come across it in some form or another in almost every project. However, repetition basically means repetition, and we will look at the process of long and complex projects lasting several months.
In long-term projects it is somewhat inevitable that the project team will start to do things robotically and will lose its edge. Members can lose their passion and start doing important jobs only because they are asked to do them. The team members are no longer able to see the light at the beginning of the tunnel, let alone the end of it, and they lose a sense of connection or context. They end up in the dark, which is not good for their work.
Repetition of priorities, goals and procedures
They say that “repetition is the mother of learning”. In this case, we would change this a little to “repetition is part of success”. Of course, in certain cases, repeating things constantly can be counterproductive; knowing precisely when to go over something and when not to cannot be precisely determined – you need to judge this for yourself, depending on the mood of your team and member effectiveness.
If the project is spread out over a number of months or quarters, it is good for the first couple of weeks to get the team to deal with assignments, information from the kick-off and regular standup meetings, which you will already be holding regularly. As soon as you start to feel that flexibility, efficiency and certain work processes are clashing with the original plan, it is time to go over things internally. It does not need to involve going through the whole project again or have to be a meeting in a meeting room; the format is not important; the subject matter is.
What needs repeating?
Obviously, you should invite everyone in the team and those whose parts of the work has already been completed. Repetition can generally be divided into two parts.
- Check what we have done and what is left to do.
- Check goals, priorities and other related issues.
In the first part, we provide information about the current state of the project to the team as a whole, so that everyone has a clear idea where they are in the imaginary tunnel. I also recommend stressing some stages that went according to plan but also mentioning those where the estimates differed, and that there should be consideration of ways to resolve such issues. Once again, it is about getting everybody involved with the issues, and as the project manager, you face them much more than the rest of the team.
In the second part we focus on particular on whether, during the work, the original goals and priorities of the client have changed. It is often the case that a function or work task that was originally scheduled for the end or at a later stage must be done earlier or be given priority. Discuss with colleagues what this amounts to, what the consequences should be for the further progress of the project, and what will be delayed as a result, and such like.
It is very important that everyone in the team considers possible solutions and alternatives. Only then do we reach the stage where team members will have a greater feeling that the project is theirs.
In addition does no harm to revise some of the points from the internal kick-off meeting.
- Why is the client doing the project and what benefits should it bring?
- What are the future plans, with regard to progress and development
- What the project means for us.
- Technological points.
- Approach to work
Before the meeting ends, very briefly recap on the points you have gone through and assign tasks verbally. Obviously you can follow up with a written record of the meeting by email, but when you “now do this, this can wait and somebody else will do this,” it is far better than corresponding by email. You save everybody’s time and in most people get more out of face to face communication. This is because it involves information tailored to specific individuals and not general information for the group as a whole. On the other hand, everybody knows roughly who is doing what and when.
Such a meeting does not need to be regular, nor does it need to be official. You can get good results simply by discussing things informally over lunch. Regardless, there is a time and place for meetings in some projects and if need be you should hold them at any time.
It definitely pays repeat things, but constantly going what people already know can be a source of irritation to some and ultimately counterproductive. Nevertheless, do not be scared to consider providing your colleagues with a suitable level of information, and gain new things from them.
The goal of repetition is not to train people to behave and patronise them, telling them what they should or should not do – definitely not! Rather, the goal in this case is that across the team each member should be sufficiently informed so that everyone knows what stage the team is at, who is doing what, who is waiting for what (or whom), what is going to happen in a week and in a month. The added value should be a general knowledge of a particular solution, the client and its needs, so that the team works systematically and pays attention to the solution and the client as a whole.