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Staying Strong From Start to Finish

Your Clear Next Step has hosted several annual conferences, and I’ve been to plenty of others - many on the topic of project management. I’ve spoken, listened, and learned many secrets of the art of Project Management, and I have a laundry list I could share, such as the importance of following up and communication during a project.

One thing I’ve heard many people say at these conferences is that when it comes to project management, they believe we have to "power through" from start to finish. Thankfully, though, we don’t! Projects are a team game, and if we pay careful attention to knowing who should get fired up - and when - we can make working on projects easier, more efficient, and faster overall. Here are three things to remember about staying strong on a project from beginning to end to help you on your next assignment.


Start Strong at the Kickoff 

Kickoffs are one of the most critical moments of the project because they set the tone for what is to come.  If the whole team starts strong right out of the gate, we build lots of momentum to help us power through the rough spots that are bound to come up later. Practical application:  Invest a little extra time and energy up front to make sure you have all the right people at the kickoff, that the kickoff meeting is well planned, well facilitated, and closes well, having accomplished its key goals.  And while we're there, we should try to focus on three things: 

Simple as they may seem, if we can get everyone onboard with all three, we gain a clear picture of what the project looks like in front of us, and we have a good shot at reaching our intended goal as a result!  


Follow a Schedule to Stay Strong 

If we set our check-in meetings as far apart as we’re willing to fall behind, we’ll never have to worry about getting too off course. Ask the team: “How long can we go without checking in to make sure things are still on track?” and come to a consensus. Of course, it’s okay for the timeline to change based on the state of the deliverable too! Don’t be afraid to move things around as the project progresses. If the project is a year long, and we don't have much to do for a month, then monthly check-ins are fine. But if the project goes live tomorrow, and we need to check in every couple of hours to make sure things are still on track, then that's what we should do! Things change, and people can adjust, too! Be sure that everyone knows their roles, especially if those roles shift and change. You can schedule who needs to be strong when, and everyone can take turns. If everyone is on the same page and knows when to get rolling, everything proceeds on time! 


Finish Strong, Take the Time for the Retrospective 

By definition, project management is a continuous improvement discipline, which means we need to leave things better than we found them. A strong wrap-up makes this possible. Throughout the process of the project, I’m sure plenty of triumphs and issues will have popped up. Burnout is possible as we near the end of a project, especially if we know we made errors along the way. Since project management is a practice conducted by humans, we know that mistakes are going to happen. The important thing is to learn from those mistakes. Using the wrap-up as a chance to look back at what we learned from our successes and our setbacks allows the team to be even better on the next project. Here are four retrospective questions that we can ask ourselves as a team to do so: 

  • What went well? 
  • What would we do differently if we could go back, or what will we do differently next time? 
  • What did we learn? 
  • What still puzzles us? 

If we ask these questions, we can gain insight into ways to prevent further mistakes, and this knowledge can be used to inform final revisions on our project. That way, we can ensure it’s the best it can be. Plus, it serves as a great foundation for future projects, where we can anticipate missteps and keep them from springing up in the first place!  


Staying strong doesn't have to be a difficult task, and it’s a great skill to have as a project manager. By staying strong, we are prepared for anything as our projects get off the ground and stand on their own. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though. You can learn more about staying strong and so much more in Foundations of Project Management! The Changemakers program has seven other classes too, and I believe that the whole program is a great tool to improve ourselves. And if you can stay strong through the process, you’ll be a perfect fit. Why not give it a shot? 





Topics: Sinikka Waugh, Project Management & Business Analysis

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

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