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Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can lose track of our goals in the midst of the chaos of daily life. We work and work on our projects without ever getting them done. No matter how much work you do, if you don’t complete your projects, what have you really accomplished? Your career depends on providing solutions. Don’t build a career that saddles you with never-ending project after never-ending project. Get on with it. Get over it. Get it done!
A Good Experience
The importance of being able to complete a project was brought home to me again this week, when I was working on a project with my podcasting group, Friends in Tech (http://friendsintech.com). We were producing a special production for only the second time in our short history and yet it was a great experience. Despite being scattered across the country, we wrote, edited, recorded and audio edited a 40 minute show, using all our voices and those of our family and yet still completed it 2 days before our scheduled deadline. This was a major feat, but even with all the work, we still followed our #1 Charter Guideline, “Have Fun!”
Why was this such a good experience? As you may have discovered in past or present jobs, completing projects makes everyone happy. The client is happy. Your company is happy and you are happy. Just when you start to get tired of the project, it’s over. Compare this to one of your previous projects that seemed to go on and on until everyone involved was sick of it. Never-ending projects make everyone unhappy and usually end with someone being fired.
One of the biggest assets of our group, and any good project group, is the ability to complete projects and complete them on time. If you can do that, you can do almost anything. But how do you find or build a group that can make it happen? There are a couple of key elements that can show you whether your project group is on the right track.
Get It Done Checklist
First, and most importantly, do you and your fellow team members have clear goals and deadlines? Are you all in agreement on what needs to be done and when? If not, prepare for a long, long project. You can’t possibly know when a project is over, if you don’t have a clear and concise picture of the end result. Lack of goals, or poorly defined goals, lead you astray from the very start. Plans change, features change, jobs change and even the entire project can change. A perfect scenario for a never-ending story. In a project like this, you are destined for months of “just one more feature” or “just one more change.”
Next, does everyone on the project team have multiple skills? Can they take on whatever role is required of them, even if it isn’t their primary talent? This is one of the great strengths of our group. Sure, we all have our specialties, but each of us can “jump in” when needed, to move the project forward. Even more, everyone is ready to jump in whenever they see an issue or need. No one waits for someone to cry for help. They are usually aware of the problem from the start and are already helping out even before their co-workers reach a breaking point.
Finally, any issue that isn’t directly related to the project at hand is ignored. Bureaucracy, paper-shuffling, unnecessary meetings are forgotten, and, if everyone is thinking clearly, no one cares. Great projects take on their own momentum and can, for a time, shunt aside the typical office politics and constraints. Build the momentum of your project and fewer people can distract you from its completion. Any project that slows too much begins to be picked apart by turf wars, bureaucracy and critics who never wanted it to happen in the first place.
You only need to experience one bad project before you see the wisdom of focusing on completion. Bad projects are like chains around your ankles. Everything is more difficult than it should be and you find yourself moving slower and slower with each passing day. In the worst cases, you might find yourself trapped within the project forever, toiling away on something that no one finds interesting or even useful, but which no one can seem to stop.
Great careers are built on great projects, so do everything in your power to find or make projects that improve your high-tech career instead of trapping it in a never-ending cycle of going nowhere.
Question of the Week: In what ways can you keep your projects on track and moving towards completion?
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