There comes a point in many projects were momentum just stops. Why does this happen? Well, sometimes we’re paralyzed by uncertainty or a general loss of interest and passion. Other times circumstances are rocky, and the team would rather do anything else than work on the project. Or, we’re overwhelmed by the mountain of to-dos.
Although the project stall is a common phenomenon, you can’t allow yourself to fall victim for too long. After all, the last thing you want is for your manager to find out about your lack of progress and put you in the doghouse. You also don’t want him to lose trust that you can manage complex assignments independently. How can you extricate yourself?
You may be having trouble pushing past an obstacle on your project because you are too close to it. Gather some key materials and approach a trusted friend, peer adviser, or mentor in your industry who has nothing to do with the project currently. Outline the situation, ask for her advice on how to proceed, and see if the fresh perspective will lead you to a solution you hadn’t thought of yet.
Get your right brain on
Step away from the laptop and the online tools for a moment. Commit a block of time in an environment that’s conducive to productive thought, and clear your head. Make a conscious effort to stop thinking about the project and engage in a creative activity. Play a game with a child, draw a picture, or work a puzzle. Turn on Pandora or read a poem that resonates with you. Return to the project a few hours later and see if new ideas have presented themselves.
Move up the deadline
Your project’s perfectly reasonable deadlines might actually be part of the problem. When deadlines are set too far in advance, people tend to rest on their laurels, thinking they have all the time in the world. Remember what Lucille Ball once said: “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” Once you sense your project has stalled, come up with a good reason for needing to finish more quickly. This will light a fire under those who work best under pressure.
One of the leadership qualities that most motivates teams is charisma. Call your team together and passionately remind them of why you’re doing this project. Why is it important in the grand scheme of things? How will the end result change the way you do business? If you infuse the situation with fresh energy, your team is more likely to be spurred to action.
Focus on today
Taking the 30,000 foot view is terrific for team motivation, but it also helps to break a stalled project down into manageable chunks. Re-configure your timeline so that you are able to focus on specific action items every day. During the first week, make your to-dos easy to achieve so that the team can regain a sense of accomplishment, and don’t insist on perfection before moving forward.
Lose the need for consensus
Many projects stall because there are too many parties involved and the group can’t agree on the best course of action. Recognize that on a team with different personalities, approaches, priorities, and agendas, it’s often impossible to achieve 100 percent consensus. If that’s your goal, you may never get there. Move on by letting all of your stakeholders know that you’ll do your best to keep everyone’s input in mind, but that you will be making a decision in the best interest of the organization and the project.