Project Leadership: 3 Lessons from New Year’s Resolutions

With 2023 still in nappies, how are your resolutions tracking? 

I love how we’ve developed a wonderful tradition of personal planning each time we complete another orbit around our sun. Some say it began far back in history with the Babylonians making promises to their gods in an effort to impress them and earn favour in the coming year. Is it just me, or does that sound a lot like a SteerCo or PMO meeting? 

I once knew an experienced Program Director who consulted with a large, multinational company regarding their portfolio approach. At the end of his report, he came to the same conclusion as so many resolution makers – identifying the resolution is the easy bit. As he explained to me, “The main issue is they all knew what needed to be done [to deliver projects well], they just didn’t do it”. 

Why do we wait another year before we enact a resolution that has already been identified the previous year? Why do so many of our resolutions fizzle out after a short time? Like a vitamin tablet in a glass of water… or orange juice… or whatever was left on the bar on New Year’s Day. 

Have you discovered the same challenges within your planning process, the PMO or your SteerCo strategy? If so, here are a couple of thoughts as to how these challenges may be overcome. 

Value 

How quickly do we abandon our resolutions when no improvement can be seen after a few weeks? 

One of the great strengths of an Agile approach is the earlier delivery of value. Providing a quick win through approaches like a proof of concept or achieving an early key milestone works to build confidence in your stakeholders and delivery team. Earlier value delivery can confirm the leadership and management’s approach as valid. If this early reward is not seen, there is still time to make the necessary changes and get back on track. If value delivery is left to the end of the project, it is more difficult to build and maintain project momentum. 

Momentum 

The momentum of a new year’s resolution is often confined to the euphoria of fireworks, friends and the moment. 

Every project has its own psychological momentum, influencing confidence within and towards the team. Some projects feel like you are Sisyphus, eternally pushing the boulder up the hill. While in others you feel like Indiana Jones, running in front of the boulder just enough not to get flattened. Early value realisation helps flatten the slope you are invariably pushing up when your project starts. It works to build the motivation of the team and the confidence of your stakeholders. When the slope increases – as it will when risks turn into issues – the momentum you’ve developed will help you move that boulder on. While value pushes and creates momentum, the project vision serves to pull the team forward. 

Vision 

Do your new year’s resolutions serve a bigger picture? 

Setting and communicating the vision for what you and your team are undertaking acts as the force that draws everyone forward into the future. It directs the momentum that’s being built, supports your team through the rough patches, and builds belief and resilience. Vision supports the wellbeing of the team and is foundational to building culture.  

But how is vision communicated? Through a strategic plan, team sessions, or something more? I’ll resolve to answer this question later in the year.  

Until then, I challenge you to make a resolution to act now – identify the vision, build momentum and deliver value. If you find yourself in Darwin or Perth in the coming months, come along to one of our launch events and see how gSphere can support your business. 

Or you could wait until 2024? 

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