You’re cruising down the highway towards your favorite vacation spot. You can’t wait to unpack the car and spend time with the family, and for everyone to unwind. That’s when you notice it. For several hours, you kept a steady pace of 75 MPH, but are now down to 60 MPH. A few minutes later, the car slows to 45 MPH, then 30 MPH. If things keep up you’re going to have to pull over and call for help.
What’s going on? That’s when it hits you. For the last five minutes you’ve let your foot off the gas! Of course, the car is slowing down!
Sound ridiculous? Of course. You can’t imagine doing that as a driver, but do you do that as a Project Manager? A project nears completion, and you start letting your foot off the gas. Or, worse yet, your manager tells you to slow down. How, and why, does this happen?
Projects go well when you keep the pressure steady from beginning to end. You have the right people, and they are committed, and focused. Proper reporting and escalations are in place. Everyone understands the urgency of getting this project done. To finish strong, look for these three danger signs that indicate you may be letting your foot off the gas:
- People Are Taken Off the Project Early - When a project goes smoothly, there is a desire to take people off before completion. Perhaps a new project is starting up, or another project is in trouble. There will never be enough people to get things done, and everyone notices that your project is doing fine. You feel it justifies taking one or two people off the project, (since you’re almost done), and moving them to the new one.
Can you feel the car slowing down?
- Management No Longer Attends Meetings - Your project is doing so well it is now “boring.” Understandably, executives and senior managers have other issues that bubble to the top and demand their attention. Your meetings are now with people that can’t break through silos, make business decisions about the project, or approve changes.
And, your speed continues to decline.
- Status Updates Stop - Well, there’s not much change to this week’s status report from last week’s, so let’s just skip this one. And, might as well skip next week too. The result? Minor but negative trends that could be spotted and addressed week over week are now turning into a major problem with limited options to resolve.
Might as well pull over and put the car in park.
Resist the pressure to pull people off the project early, stress the importance to executives and senior managers that they must be involved in all project meetings, and keep updates going out regularly. The one thing you can do to make sure your projects cross the finish line is to keep your foot on the gas! The moment you stop doing any of these things is the moment you’ll see your project start to slow down and drift toward the edge of the road.