As we approach the half-way point of the year, it’s a good time to check the progress of your most important business projects.
Here are five questions to ask that will help to ensure that leaders and teams stay right on track, and that the distractions and disruptions of the imminent holiday season don’t leave them frantically playing catch-up in the final quarter of the year.
Reflecting on the first four questions will lay the foundations of improvement. The fifth and final question might make for uncomfortable reading and contemplation, but could well hold the key to incremental gain and benefits beyond the immediate project.
- Are the project goals still relevant?
Assuming that you are now six months in to a project that began in January, how relevant are the goals that were initially set? Indeed, were the goals clear and signed-off by all stakeholders?
Have there been any early successes to suggest that the overall goals are achievable, or is success as far away in June as it was when you were clearing your New Year hangover?
Meanwhile, I’ve written previously about my scepticism about SMART goals and how only 40 per cent of people find them useful. In the case of a mid-year review, I would be much less concerned by the M for Measurability (which should be a given) than figuring out if the project goals hold any Motivation for the project team.
- Have we got the right skillsets?
You would have to be an absolute master of planning to scope a team in January and have precisely the right skillsets on the project in June and July.
To borrow from Belbin, might you need to reintroduce a Plant to find some new creative solutions, or perhaps upweight the Complete Finisher bias to see the project home?
And might individuals within the team be working within the comfort zone of their own skillsets, rather than focusing on more challenging and ultimately more important tasks?
- Do team roles and responsibilities need dusting down?
Back in January it might has been clear who was doing what, but several half-term holidays, a new intern and two resignations later, is that still the case?
A quick review, under the auspices of the RACI model (which clarifies who on the team is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed) will help to avoid duplication and prevent too many tears before deadline.
- Are we communicating well?
By now, there’s a good chance that team meetings will have fallen in to an unhealthy pattern. Starting late, increasing numbers of absentees, notes and actions being circulated when the meeting is already a distant memory or perhaps not at all.
There is no silver bullet here, but one the best moves a savvy team leader can make is to insist on agendas being circulated in advance, and using the agenda to state the length of time each item will be given and who will be leading the discussion. Also, making clear that there will be (time-bound) discussion time for each item and that all team members will be asked for a view.
- And finally…
There’s one question that could be asked of a team that might well bring forth many of the themes discussed above – and many others which might really help to remove barriers and unlock the team’s potential.
It is very simple and it is:
How do we all feel about the project?
Asking about feelings goes against the grain in many organisations, but in a team coaching situation we would always encourage team leaders to connect with their own feelings and those of their colleagues.
It could be that goals, skillsets, roles and responsibilities and communication are all in a good place – and yet the team might still have more to contribute if members are given the chance, in a non-judgmental environment, to air underlying frustrations, to voice greater ambitions or to share concerns and anxieties.
Although often unspoken, the feelings of the leader and the team are already having a major impact on the progress of a project – and this ‘felt reality’ is as important to future success as the commercial realities of spreadsheets, budgets and progress reports.