As a project moves towards a deadline, two things become obvious. Was the project started based on a end date rather than level of effort to deliver. And, if the project is being run by a manager or a Senior Executive.
Senior Executive projects generally start their life as a PowerPoint. Where a vision is expressed and promises are made. There may be some effort quote but the project is still very young so effort numbers are from a call or a napkin. The most important item to note is that a PowerPoint for the project has started the project so there is a “high level deck” that everyone wants to see green.
As the project moves along it hits a few snags but no one wants anything red or they will allow as long as there is a plan to bring the date back in. At the 3/4 point, things will start to look like all of the pages of the deck’s promises are not tracking for the right delivery date. It is at this point that the project will take one of two directions.
if the project has a strong Sr Executive directly leading and reporting greens and yellows in they report out decks, there will be a sudden de-scoping effort of “just what is needed” to service the needs of the business or clients. Hall way conversations start at this point to get people on the side of the “on time” delivery of an altered version of the project. it is important to have friends back up the new PowerPoints that say everyone is happy with what they will get. Of course, they aren’t really and the project will be frowned on in the future.
Another project being guided by a manager level employee is less concerned about the color of the boxes and more concerned about letting people down. It is hard for senior level business people to understand but teams will work very hard on their own out of sheer pride of their delivery.
If given the chance to be creative in the project and being allowed to own the success, the front line project working team members will do what it take. On their own! No money or fame promises are needed. Just the knowledge that they are in control and are being instructed to do the right thing.
There are teams that will start to slice out parts of a project but generally this is frowned on by other team members so it can be short lived. Teams are not instructed to work long hours or over weekends, they just do it. Give them the chance to shine and be ready to call out their successes in the PowerPoints rather than only having red dots and smaller delivered lists.
Of course, this works the first time if the PowerPoint deadlines where anywhere close to being doable. Even a stretch will be accepted. But the next time or if very unrealistic deadlines are set then people start to feel they are being taken advantage of. Do your best to keep it doable and give the team the power to be creative in their solution or methods.
I started thinking about this post a while back. Just recently a friend pointed out the below video on what motivates employees. You may want to take a look.
Posted here with an iPad… just for fun!