Project Practitioners > Project Baggage

Project Baggage

By Ann Drinkwater

Have you ever closed a project, yet you feel like the team or other stakeholders have not fully let go? For highly interactive, stellar projects this type of post project "high" can be very positive and infectious. However, even when a project is deemed a success, there are often people or issues that surface during the project or even post project that should be addressed. Projects with less than favorable results, should be handled with greater sensitivity and concern for the parties involved. These are the projects that everyone tip-toes around and treats as the elephant in the room. You know what they are, and many organizations think by ignoring them, they will fade from memory. It is true time can heal wounds, but not addressing and airing concerns can also fester and affect other areas of the business.

Retrospectives and post mortems are useful exercises to not only review project metrics, pitfalls and successes, but as a way to allow the team to openly discuss their thoughts and perspectives of the project. Projects by nature are unique endeavors, so the scenarios and factors will differ from project to project. Even if you believe the project was a success and similar to others, it doesn’t mean the rest of the team shares these views. The people involved in a project can directly impact the success of a project, so the more you listen to and support your teams, the better the environment and results you will see. Not to mention, the healthier and happier you will be too. Yes, projects are stressful, but that doesn’t need to equate to unhappiness. Open, interactivity and collaborative environments are conducive to happiness. I can personally attest to the benefits of open communication and dealing with issues as they occur. So what can you do?

  • Issues will always crop up during a project. A good manager will deal with them as they occur, so they don’t compound. Tracking issues and the steps taken to address is needed throughout the project as part of risk management and for your post mortem review. Most of us think of risk management during the actual project, but what happens to the risks, responses and mitigation plans post launch? When the project is over, this list should be revisited and appended with anything new that wasn’t address on a tactical basis.
  • Be aware of your environment, surroundings and any changes within your team. Issues can often manifest themselves in subtle ways. The better you know your team and the nuances of their behavior, the better equipped you will be to identify and handle problems.
  • Not everyone will vocalize their thoughts and concerns. Allow your teams to communicate how they feel most comfortable. In a group setting, it is often helpful to allow everyone to anonymously list their concerns.
  • Create an open door policy, and mean it. Just saying that your teams can call on you for anything doesn’t always them make them feel this is so. Don’t rush your teams and don’t dominate the conversation. Let them speak freely.
  • Happy people are often more successful and productive. While we can’t control our team’s personal lives, we can look to create an open environment where they are more able to put personal situations aside due to a positive, fulfilling work environment.
  • Sometimes a person’s resentment and feelings go deeper than what we can professionally resolve. While we manage people, we can’t make them feel or behave a certain way. Recognize when the situation is beyond your scope and consider all options you have available. Separation and time away can help add perspective.
  • Activities and games are a good way to introduce fun into the work and to help the team overcome prior obstacles.

Help your teams (and yourself) let go. Letting go is the only way to truly move forward and dedicate yourself to a new endeavor. We often get caught up in the metrics and goal attainments associated with projects, which can lose some of the human side of projects. Projects are about people, so this is a critical area to recognize and regularly address.

~ Ann E. Drinkwater

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