Artful Nagging for Task Completion

last edited by: Sunny Ray on Jan 10, 2017 3:54 PM login/register to edit this page


One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of nag is “to annoy (someone) with repeated questions, requests, or orders.” Nagging can become an art form in project management- striking the right level of annoyance is critical; you want to encourage action, but not significant frustration or avoidance. Project managers frequently have to find a unique and subtle balance with many different project participants, so having a number of different approaches in your skillset is advantageous. Being able to nag effectively, by varying approach and using humor, can have a big impact on project outcomes.

A key factor in successful project outcomes is the effort extended to complete tasks on schedule, often involving many individuals who are working on multiple projects simultaneously. Projects would be so much easier if everyone completed everything project managers needed from them on the timeline needed. Sadly, just because you have a project schedule doesn’t mean that individuals are always in a position to help you meet it. Seasoned project managers are familiar with many of the classic recommendations for promoting timely task completion:

-Keep your project sponsors highly engaged and involved in prioritizing tasks and removing barriers

-Remind team members of the purpose of the project, why it’s important to the organization, and how their contributions fit in

-Focus on the purpose of a particular task- talk about why a particular task or deadline is important for the overall success of the project

-Regular status updates- stay on top of progress for important tasks- don’t wait until a due date to see how something is going. Routinely discuss priorities and make adjustments as needed -Model the actions you want to see- act with integrity and accountability. Meet your own deadlines. Do what you say you’re going to do

-Foster strong relationships with team members- take a few minutes to talk about your lives beyond the project, ask about their weekend or their kids

-Negotiation- ask what you can do for someone in support of or in return for their efforts towards working on a task

While the above suggestions can be effective, sometimes you need to go the extra mile to facilitate task completion in challenging circumstances. While nagging can have a bad connotation, I’ve found artfully applied nagging can be very helpful in facilitating task completion in projects. Team members are busy, often juggling multiple projects, tasks and deadlines. Artful nagging will help keep your project’s tasks in the forefront of their minds and encourage focus. The first step is to set up a plan for yourself in which you outline each person you’re going to nag, and how frequently. Your nag plan should be influenced by scope, timeline, and criticality of tasks- you should plan to follow up more frequently with stakeholders that are assigned more important tasks for the project. Once you’ve outlined the stakeholders and the frequencies, you’ll want to think about different approaches you could employ at your various touch points. Here are some nagging approaches that I’ve used in the past with fairly good results. While unconventional, they are lighthearted, and employing humor can be remarkably effective.

Put your request into a poem, such as:

I think that I shall never see

Your final draft of warranty

I hope that I may see it soon,

Perhaps before this Friday at Noon?

Alter the lyrics of a well-known song to fit your request and sing it:

(sung to the tune of “Single Ladies” by Beyoncè)

I would like it if you could write the code for it

I would like it if you could write the code for it,

Don’t be mad once you hear that I want it

I would like it if you could write the code for it

Pair food with your nag:

Ever since cave people sat around fires eating roast beast, we’re wired to respond socially to food. Most folks love to eat, and you can really capitalize on this with your teammates. Leave a piece of candy or other treat on their desk with a written note about a task, reward the completion of a big task by ordering in lunch, or bring in a box of ice cream bars to a team meeting.

Physical proximity:

In Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, the character Mr. Collins attempts to woo Elizabeth Bennett at a ball by telling her that his “chief object was by delicate attentions to recommend himself to her, and that he should therefore make a point of remaining close to her the whole evening.” Although Mr. Collins ultimately wasn’t successful in winning over Elizabeth, the technique of remaining in close proximity can be a good one for promoting project awareness and completion of tasks. If possible, take up working for an hour or two periodically in close proximity to key project participants.

If these nag suggestions don’t work and the project is at risk, you might have to get project sponsors/leaders involved. They can often nag with a higher level of persuasion or position authority that can get things moving forward.

I hope you can see how artfully applied nagging can be helpful in project management, and that you can employ a variety of approaches in pursuit of completion and fun. Good luck!


last edited by: Sunny Ray on Jan 10, 2017 3:54 PM login/register to edit this page


Comments (2)

Login/join to subscribe
ADVERTISEMENTS

A conference is a gathering of important people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done.

- Fred Allen

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors

Vendor Events

See all Vendor Events