project management

Positive Habits in Project Delivery

Projects
From working on many projects over the years one can become accustomed to the culture of a project in terms of delivery, habits and work ethic. We can take a lot for granted in terms of what has become the norm for us.

On a recent assignment with a client we had found it difficult to recruit people with the right attitude for the upcoming body of work. We had to place junior graduates with more experienced project team members. The technical knowledge can be transferred over time and with the right attitude and desire anyone can learn how to do anything.

There is however a softer side to project delivery that is seldom written down – the ability to deliver under time pressure and maintain focus on the work at hand. The decision to give the graduates some exposure to more experienced people was not just to absorb the technical knowledge but to observe and learn the habits and attitude of delivery and the value of taking action.

Action
Projects get completed because people take action, complete tasks and achieve objectives. Taking action is fundamental to successful project delivery. In trying to get this across to some of the new members of the project team we tired to categorize the practices, attitude and habits that we need them to adopt to be able to deliver consistently in a challenging environment.

We summarized the points that we were trying to make as follows

Successful Project Teams Take Action
With a ready-fire-aim mentality, nothing beats taking action. You could pull out a great book about success and learn from the greats, but there is no better teacher than experience, which comes only from taking action. Completing a training course may prepare you for what is to come but the experience of taking action will teach you so much more and this experience will stay with you.

People can spend too much time making a decision. They worry about making the “right” decision. A former boss of mine always encouraged us to “Fail Faster” as he was convinced that this would get us on the right track earlier than and long drawn out decision making process.

Even if the action is incorrect – you will learn that it is incorrect quickly and get back on track quickly instead of extensive procrastination and risk analysis.

Completing a training course may prepare you for what is to come but the experience of taking action will teach you so much more and this experience will stay with you.

Taking action will get you where you need to be much faster than detailed analysis. When you are faced with this situation, ask yourself – “What’s the worst outcome? What is the worst thing that can happen if I take this action?”

Consistent Action Creates Momentum
When you have momentum on your side, several benefits kick in. The momentum of being “in the zone” performing any task makes the task easier to perform. Momentum can also make a large body of work appear more manageable and achievable.

As you witness yourself doing more work, taking on additional work does not seem daunting. Surprises or unforeseen issues on a project are just absorbed into the main body of work when the project team has momentum. Have you heard of the saying – “If you want something done – ask a busy person.”

To use a sports analogy, regular training for a football match will prepare you for the match but actually playing more matches affords you the opportunity to get better at playing matches.

Consistent Delivery Becomes a Habit
When you work on projects long enough and get used to consistent delivery, this can become a habit, a positive habit. This can happen subconsciously at first but if you analyse performance between a time when you were not in a high paced delivery environment and being in an environment where consistent delivery is the norm, you will notice the difference.

Some research indicates that it can take approximately 60 days to form a habit, a habit that you don’t need to think about too much – it just happens.

Habits are often seen in a negative light. Looking at the dictionary definition:

habit
Definition (noun)
1. a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

Doesn’t sound very inspiring does it? I prefer another definition that relates to the psychology of the word.
an automatic reaction to a specific situation.
Now that gives a more positive representation of the word. So as we stated above, where a high paced delivery and continuous execution of work is the scenario in which you find yourself – if we are exposed to this environment in the correct way for a prolonged duration – this can help to form the positive habit if you chose to do so. In acquiring the positive habit you will perform in response to the needs of the project. The same response in reverse would ensue if your response is negative and you form a bad habit,

This is by no means a new concept as the idea of positive habits defining the individual and subsequently success has been well documented for centuries. In the following passage written by one wiser than I, and shamelessly borrowed from the Talmud:

Pay attention to your thoughts, for they become your words.
Pay attention to your words, for they become your actions.
Pay attention to your actions, for they become your habits.
Pay attention to your habits, for they become your character.
Pay attention to your character, for it becomes your fate.

This passage places a huge emphasis on habits and their effect. Bringing this back to personal performance and the performance of teams it may seem somewhat philosophical but it does have some practical resonance in the working world today. If you replace the term fate for your performance. The message here is that strong performance is not an accident.
It is intentional based on your thoughts and your actions. Maintain focus on the task at hand while always keeping sight of the next milestone will ensure that your contribution to the project is positive. Thoughts, words, actions, habits ultimately define how we perform, so ensure they are always moving you forward towards the next goal or milestone and this starts with the right mindset.

Summary
Successful Project Teams Take Action
Consistent Action Creates Momentum
Momentum Creates a Positive Habit of Delivery

On a related topic read The Project Mindset

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