Project momentum is energy that makes your project moving. But there are so many possible situations that takes the motivation and spirit from your team or even from yourself. Maintaining project momentum requires true leadership skills and solid project management base in terms or knowledge, methods and experience.
Do you know that feeling when your team reaches a milestone, everybody is a bit tired after all the effort and seeking for at least a short break? Let your team celebrate and enjoy their success. Highlight their achievement and transform their positive energy into motivation to achieve further deliveries.
One of the advantages of project work is that people experience tasks beyond their regular job assignments. Project managers may enhance their learning, skills development or even support their job promotion. All these steps motivate the team members to contribute to the project success.
Be always one step ahead
To keep the project moving, project manager must be focused not only on the currently happening activities, but also foresee, plan and initiate necessary steps in advance to ensure smooth transition between project stages that require changes in the team structure, processes or methods of work.
Such transition may involve redirecting the team focus to different type of tasks, e.g. from business requirements analysis to development, establishing relationship with new stakeholders, e.g. system ramp-up support after implementation that requires communication with broader spectrum of the system users, or enlarging the team with new roles and experts.
Lead by example, show your energy to energize the others
There will always be some moments that drag your team spirit down. Not approved change request that was really important for your customer. Key stakeholder took another challenge in the company and is no longer supporting your project. System architecture reveals more and more issues impacting your delivery and you can’t change that. Unexpected budget cut. You name it.
At such moments it is the project manager that everyone is looking at. And that’s the time to show the true leadership! Use your own energy to motivate the others to find solutions to sudden obstacles. There are always solutions. Maybe not visible at the first sight, but motivated team can find them.
So nope, there’s never really any time for a project manager to take a nap. The project management discipline is very complex not only in terms of knowledge to be acquired, ability to learn new technologies and products, but it also demands emotional intelligence maturity and high level of leadership skills. Keeping project momentum is not a magic, it is rather a lot of hard work.
Project Managers need to solve problems often. Having couple of problem-solving techniques in their pocket may be very handy. Especially when there’s a need for approach that possibly engage the whole team while number of participants may vary. And wouldn’t it be just perfect if finding innovative and applicable solutions is actually fun?
Synectics comes from the Greek language means “the joining together of different and apparently irrelevant elements”. I learned this technique couple of years ago from a coach who is also psychologist and works with leadership teams. I have a big respect for his work and I have opportunity to apply this method several times with success. Hope it helps!
“If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.” Steven Johnson
Synectics is a method that works with problem analogies and put them in a different, seemingly not at all linked, environment. Let’s demonstrate that on a potential problem from project management discipline.
Note: As any other group technique, it works the best in a smaller group, around 7-10 people. If you have bigger team you may split them in several groups and combine their outputs afterwards.
Step 1 Name your problem.
Example: We often misunderstand customer requirements and spend too much time working on wrong SW functionalities.
Step 2 Brainstorm analogies to your problem. Be creative at this step and encourage any ideas, this is the fun part. Analogy does not have to be from the same industry, business context or have any relation to the scope of your project. What counts is the principle of the problem to which you create the analogy.
Example: I don’t understand what my mom wants me to do and then I do something else which she does not consider helping. | The vending machine does not react to the numbers I push and then I get a wrong snack. | I’m buying the best food I can for my cat but she does not appreciate that.
Step 3 Let the team(s) pick up the analogy they like the most.
Example: I’m buying the best food I can for my cat but she does not appreciate that.
Step 4: Brainstorm ideas how to solve the analogy problem. Follow the common brainstorming rules to encourage everyone to participate and don’t dismiss any ideas.
“The history of innovation is the story of ideas that seemed dumb at the time.”, Andy Dunn
Example: Let the cat taste samples before you buy the whole bag. Let the cat cook by herself. Let the cat write her own cookbook. Teach your cat sign language so that she can point out what she likes for lunch. Ask other people who also have cats to learn what approach works for them the most. Pick up flavors the cat likes and mix them for her lunch.
Step 5: Translate the brainstormed solutions back to the context of the original problem.
Example: Pick up flavors the cat likes and mix them for her lunch -> Don’t complete large features before presenting them to the customer. Split the customer requirements in smaller pieces and gather their feedback one by one. Adjust your understanding based on the received feedback and only then process to their integration into bigger part of the software.
Good luck and let me know what are your favorite creative problem-solving techniques! If you practice this one, what is your feedback on synectics?